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flatters human pride at the expense tism: no nian is more convivial, or of religious improvement; -- nay, more solicitus to promote good renders the mind, as has been intic humour. If a litile
If a little irregularity mated, altogether indisposed to re- can ever be lawfully tolerated, he ligion.
thinks that the baptism of a child, Examine well the man, who victory over enemies, and the like, seems desirous to serve both God afford proper occasions. Enthuand his carral appetites; and our siasm, in these instances, can be Saviour's declaration, that we can supported — can be recommended: not serve two masters, will receive but, oh! if the same spirit be mani. a striking confirmation
fested towards any thing in the It is generally understood, that semblance of religion, anger, or action is the proper index of dispo- contempt, immediately prevails. In sition ; and ibat a certain unifor- his opinion the best directed zeal is mity must pervade a man to entitle fanaticism, and the most fervent him to the praise of consistency. prayers are cant and hypocrisy: In No conclusion, therefore, unfavour- a word, if a prayer be repeated, or able to him, ought to be drawn a sermon preached in a tone of from a few accidental circumstances. cordiality and feeling, both, in bis As long as the trait, which is sup- estimation, lose their orthodoxy and posed to mark his disposition, is propriety. This man, nevertheless, prominent and conspicuous, these because he may occasionally attend should be regarded as contrary to a place of worship, perhaps, achis inclinations, or as the effect of counts trimself, and wishes to be some unguarded moment. Now, if accounted, religious enough. the conduct of the man of the world The character here delineated is be observed, it may be collected, neither imaginary nor in frequent: what is his disposition, and what it appears in most towns and vil. the object which principally en- lages, and demands no extraordinary grosses his thoughts. See this man, degree of acuteness to detect it. then, in company with chosen Its prominent trait is that whether friends, celebrating a national festi• the man to whom it belongs attends vity! Good humour and gaiety are a house of God, observes a fast, cethe order of the day. Observe the lebrates the baptism of a child, or alterations of his countenance, and rejoices for some national proviyou cannot, for one instant, doubt dence, he has a reference throughof his loyalty and “ love of coun. out to worldly maxims.
He does try.” When the machinations of not profess religion, because it is enemies are described, indignation an appointment of God and the inagitates his bosom;, when the ex- strument of salvation; but because cellencies of the constitution are it is enjoined by the supreme expatiated upon, he expresses his powers of the realm. Hence that feelings in bursts of admiration ;- neutrality and torpor of heart, when and when the mild character of his engaged in religious exercises, and sovereign is pourtrayed, his tongue that illiberality and virulence 10falters, and 'the tear of affection wards all who'shew, by their pracrolls from his eyes. In this man- tice, that they consider religion as ner be improves national event. conducive to the true interests of And yet ibis man may be noto- the soul. It is evident, indeed, that riously defective in those duties, as long as a vital principle of holiwhich characterise the Christian.
ness is wanting, events can never He may not even blush to add to be duly improved. his store by means the most sordid In duly improving events, an and mercenary.
especial reference will be made to View this man also, when one of his children has received bap- or alictive, the improvement wil
God. And whether they be joyou.
consist chiefly in the progress to- usual tenour of a Christian's course, wards sanctification, which they and is made the occasion of extrapronote. Events of a joyful nature ordinary notice and observation, ale api, it is well known, to lead will be entertained by him on astray even the most vigorous Christian principles. He will not minds: bence the necessity of de. draw a nice line of distinction bevising means to prevent the ensnar- tween what is the effect of worldly ing influence of prosperity, and to policy, and what of religion; and confirm men in proper dispositions. endeavour to have two sorts of conBat what can operate more power- duct, by which he may accommofully to this end than to have the date himself to either : but whether glory of God and the sanctification attending to religious or civil daties, of the soul as the immediate objects whether his joy or grief be occasionof pursait? Thus actuated, families ed by circumstances of a political or will proceed to commemorate events religious nature, the spirit of Chriswitb a certain expectation of derive tianity will be prominent in all his ing improvement from them. demeanour. The worldling it is,
On the baptism of a child, for in- who draws absurd lines of distincsance, tbey will invite friends simi- tion: the only line, which a ChrisJarly disposed with themselves, who tian draws, is between what is evil will accept the invitation, but for and what is good; yet not for the the sake of " eating, drinking, and sake of passing from one to the being merry," but from a solicitude other, but that he may cleave to of being mutually assistant in the the latter, and flee from the former. work of salvation. The occasion He will be no less consistent, therewill suggest the propriety of making fore, when celebrating any worldly some addition to the usual course of event, than the anniversary of his family worship. It will, indeed, be marriage, or the baptism of his a day of worship, not only in the child. On all occasions, his conhouse of God, but at home. The duct will proclaim bim a servant choice of sponsors will not be di- of God. rected by any consideration of pe- Though, however, these are inconiary advantage. Regard will not stances of improvement taken from be bad so much to birth or affluence, circumstances of joy; yet we should to rank or connections, as to cha- greatly 'err, did we suppose that the racter. Those persons, therefore, Christian is less pious and exemwill be selected, who fully appre- plary under any other circumciate the responsibility of the office, stances. Should some adversity acd manifest the truth of the Go- befal his country, or press more imspel in their own experience and mediately on his own family, he is example.
not driven to an unmanly desponBut not only such a case as this, dency, nor is he more inattentive to which seems connected more imme- the duty of prayer. Having a steddiately with religion, is a proper fast faith in the doctrine of an oversubject for improvement, but also ruling Providence, he is not, on the erery case. The world is not to one hand, “afraid of evil tidings,” secularise religion, but religion is nor, on the other, is he at a loss for to Christianise the world; to alter arguments to inculcate resignation its modes and habits; to introduce and contentment. On such an jato it maxims and customs more event, it is true, he cannot fail 10 compatible with the perfections of have his sensibility exercised; but the Deiy; and to instil into the he guards, lest his feelings should heart of man principles, that will gain the ascendancy over his prinexpel thence "a love of the world, ciples, or he should manifest sympand of the things of the world.” toms of impatience. Jo his prayers, So that, whatever occurs out of the therefore, privaie and domestic, he
acknowledges the adversity as the ther. In the word of prophecy, if just punishment of sin, and im- judiciously investigated, they may plores the Divine Majesty to give to find satisfactory reasons for the himself, to his family, and country- scenes of the drama now acting. men, a due spirit of humiliation and Probably, from such an investigarepentance. And not forgetting, tion the petition of the Lord's that the more active means of avert. Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” will ing wrath are “ to loose the bands derive an interest, which will not of wickedness, to undo the heavy a little affect their minds, and inburdens, to let the oppressed goduce them to prefer it, in future, free, and to deal bread to the hun- with more understanding and argry;" he and his family display dour. The times, let it be repeattheir benevolence by seeking out ed, imperiously call upon them to proper objects, and, if able, by re- display their peculiar principles, lieving them ; or if unable, by re- and to shew themselves ' a people commending them to the notice of zealous of good works." Impiety the affluent. But in his humiliation has been so signally triumphant, he endeavours to appear before men and the faith of multitudes is so with his usual cheerful and steady languid and ineffective, that it be countenance: and this he does in hoveth them to “ let their light compliance with the direction of shine before men,” that the wavera his Saviour ; « Thou, when thou ing may be confirmed, and all may fastest, anoint thy head and wash see in their example a proof, that thy face, that thou appear not unto Christianity is “ 'not a cunningly men to fast, but unto thy Father, devised fable.” In a word, as which is in secret.”
“ time is short, it remaineth (to use But besides these, many are the the language of the apostle) that instances which will occur to afford both they that have wives, be as subjects of improvement;- not only though they had none; and they the fasts and festivals of the church that weep, as though they wept and the nation; not only birth-days, not; and they that rejoice, as anniversaries of marriage, and the though they rejoiced not; and they baptism of children; not only war that buy, as though they possessed and peace, the seasons of the year, not; and they that use this world, and the greater vicissitudes of life; as not abusing it: for the fashion of but also the little and common in- this world passeth away." cidents, which abound in every family. Let then all, who are dignified
No. XXVI. with the Christian name, be studious to improve the incidents of life. Philippians iii. 12.-" Not as though At no period has there existed a I had already attained, either greater call for this, than exists at were already perfect." the present, when the powers of the There are two great objects of the world are shaken to their founda. Christian ministry. The first is, to tion, and the attention of most men direct men to Jesus Christ as the is absorbed with contemplating the only Saviour of sinners; and the seunprecedented events of the times. cond is, to urge them to a constant Without being depressed or elated' progress in faith and holiness. My with the different tidings, which present design is, to shew the imare wasted over the earth, let them portance of the second of these two persevere in practising the duties of objects. And I shall do this by their sacred profession, consoling considering the example of St. themselves with the reflection, that Paul, as it is described in the verses all things are tending to accomplish connected with my text. I shall the purposes of their heavenly Fa. explain;
1. The state and the attainments of had “ a desire to depart, and to be the apostle.
with Christ.” He well knew that II. His sense of remaining imper. this was so far better” in itself, that fection.
a life of sorrow and persecution, III. His pursuit of higher mea. Yet he was willing to abide on sures of holiness.
earth, for the good of the church. The state and attainments of the He could even “joy and rejoice in apostle are to be learnt from various being offered on the sacrifice and passages in his epistles. The sense service of their faith.” Such love he bad of his own imperfection is was surely never surpassed, except strongly expressed in the text. His by Him who “
bis life a ransom ardent pursuit of higher degrees of for many." boliness, is described in the words Consider again his supreme love which follow it—"This one thing I to Christ. He deliberately “countdo, forgetting those things which ed all things but loss for the exare behind, and reaching forth unto cellency of the knowledge of Christ those things which are before, I Jesus his Lord.” (iii. 7–9). He not press towards the mark for the prize only preferred the knowledge of of the high calling of God in Christ Christ to all those advantages on Jesus.” rer. 13,14.
which he once relied for acceptI. The actual state of the apostle ance with God, but he looked on was that of a believer in the Gospel. them as loss, as contemptible, as He had been « apprehended of injurious, as not to be named, in Christ Jesus," ver. 12. that is, he had comparison with the astonishing been laid hold of, as it were, and glories of his eross. stopped by him, in bis mad career Consider, further, his spirituality of sin. He had been brought back of mind : “ bis conversation was in
to God by sincere repentance: he heaven." (iii. 20). How emphatic 9 had believed on the name of Jesus an expression! He lived as a ci.
Christ: be had been justified by tizen of a future world. His habifaith alone: he had become a new tual temper and conduct already creature. In a word, he was recon- partook of that blissful country to ciled to God, adopted into his which he was travelling. Heaven family, šanctified by his Spirit, and filled his soul, and engrossed his made an heir of eternal glory. This conversation. was his state.
His contentment is also worthy of With regard to his attainments in notice. Though he lived in the holiness
, we may confine ourselves midst of trouble and affliction and to a few instances taken from the death, he had “ learned in whatepistle before us.
soever state he was, therewith to be His disinterestedness appears, in content.” (iv. 11, 12). his rejoicing when Christ The consistency of his whole coupreached, though by persons who duct was such that he could say to wished to lessen his authority as the churches; " be followers of me, ad apostle (i. 15–18). How ex- and mark them which walk so, as ye cellent a spirit! Men are usually have us for an ensample.” (iii. 17, to jealous of their authority, and and iv. 9.) especially of their just authority, I only add his unfeigned humility. To rejoice then because some good Notwithstanding all these high admight arise, though his own inte- vantages in holiness, this eminent tests tight suffer, was a striking Christian counted himself “ not to proof of St. Paul's freedom from have apprehended,” not to have yet every selfish motive.
reached, the point at which he aimed. We see his regard for the church He informs us, he" had not attained, in the same chapter (i. 24, 25). He neither was already perfect."
· This leads me to explain,
the different branches of learning, II. His sense of remaining im- or art, or science. In all these purperfection.
suits, the man who knows nothing, St. Paul considered himself not to or knows but a little, is confident, bave attained that holiness which and eager. But he who seriously the Gospel taught him to seek after. begins to make the trial, soon loses Many will be surprised at this ac- his presumption. He acquires by knowledgment. They do not un- degrees a new standard of judging. derstand how persons can honestly New views present themselves. The use such language, whose conduct circuit widens around him. The is uniformly blameless. This sur- point of perfection moves farther off
. prise arises from an ignorance of the His first rude attempts are despised. case. All excellence is comparative. And after years of patient labour, What may be a high attainment ac- he still sees that he has really learnt cording to one standard, may be a nothing, in comparison of the un. very low one with respect to ano. bounded field of attainment which ther.
stretches itself before him. The fact is this; the Christian It is thus in the pursuit of pero judges of himself by a totally dif- sonal holiness. The worldly man ferent standard from that of a world- knows nothing of practical godlily man; and the advanced Chris- ness; and therefore, if he speak of tian from that of an unexperienced it, he will betray his total igno
rance of the subject. The young The worldly man has no idea of Christian knows but little, and God searching the reins and the must therefore, at present, be an ** heart; of the extent and spirituality incompetent judge. of the law; how important it is But let any one take up religion that every action should spring from as the grand concern of a dying love to God in Jesus Christ; how and accountable creature, and let necessary it is to maintain in lively him persevere for a course of years and habitual exercise, repentance in the pursuit, and his confidence for sin, faith in Christ, watchfulness will lessen exactly as his knowledge in prayer, mortification of every increases. He will find, that after evil temper, spirituality of mind, he has obtained some hope of being indifference to the world, holy and interested in the righteousness of devout affections, firmness in pro- Jesus Christ as his only ground of fessing the truth, and circumspec- jastification, and after he has been tion in adorning it. All these established in the grace of the Holy things lie far above out of his sight. Ghost as the only source of holiness
, His views are bounded by outward the task he has still to perform is imbehaviour, and external form. All mense.
By degrees his informabeyond is confused, and indistinct. tion will enlarge; his spiritual
The young Christian, though his senses become more acute; he will mind is in some degree enlightened daily find new sources of evil disby the Holy Spirit, has also but li- covering themselves, and new points mited views of what is before him. of duty calling for attention. He He thinks his course to be far more will become more quick in perceive easy than he afierwards finds it. ing what is amiss, and more cauAnd he is apt to be a little surprised tious in every step he takes. And that eminent Christians should still be will be conscious, after all, that lament their great imperfection. he cannot do what he would, nor be
These impressions arise from in. what he ought. experience. The same thing oc
In this way, every Christian, as curs in the ordinary concerns of life. he grows in grace, enters more into It is the case with the study of all the spirit of the apostle. He feels