Page images

spoke of the evil of sin, both in the guilt of it upon my conscience, and the punishment of it on my whole man. I now think of that great truth, of the need I have of Christ, how precious he is: he told me I must suffer persecution, and when I feel, I cannot but remember that prediction, 1 Thess. iii. 3, 4; and so in other things.

7. Frequently repeat to others what you would remember: this is a great help. Many will give an account of various passages in sermons, preached thirty or forty years ago, who have forgotten as pertinent and profitable matter spoken the day before. What is the reason? They have familiarized them to themselves by frequent repetition. If you would presently, after hearing a sermon, or reading a chapter, fall into discourse about it, it would rivet your notions in your minds. Scholars find this an excellent help to memory, nothing is of such advantage: hence Deut. vi. 6, 7, "These words which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart." How? "Thou shalt teach, (Hebrew is, whet or sharpen) them diligently unto thy children, and thou shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house." O that talk of sermons, scriptures, and truths, were more in fashion! If every one would cast in his mite, and contribute something, what a treasure would be gathered! If every one bring a little fuel, what a fire would be kindled! The two disciples talked together of the things that had happened, and they had burning hearts: before they parted, our Lord joined himself to hold a parley with conversing disciples. Be not ashamed to speak of the things of God: David saith, "I will speak of thy testimonies before kings and will not be ashamed."+ How often do we find David's sacred lips expressing the delights of his heart, which return with great advantage upon his memory, and help his meditation: and this is the duty and characteristic of a truly pious man who hath the law of God in his heart, his mouth "speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment,” Psal. xxxvii. 30, 31.


8. Proceed immediately to the practice or improvement of those truths which come home to your conscience. Practice is both the end and means of a good memory: imprisoning truths quite loseth them. If you" hold the truth in unrighteousness," it cannot stay long with you. If you live not answerably, you bury all in the grave of the oblivion; but present, lively practice doth, as it were, harden the hopeful buds and blossoms of good, that they are not so soon blasted. Hence when David had a good thought in his mind, he worked it on his affections, and brought it into action. Psalm cxix. 55—57, • Luke xxiv. 14, 32. + Psal cxix. 46. See ver. 13, 27, 43, 52. Rom. i. 18.

"I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law." See, his was a practical memory and what then? "This I had, because I kept thy precepts." What had he? It may be a better memory, or more elevated affections, or more evidence of God's love to his soul: "Thou art my portion, O Lord." Thus an activity of life and contemplation, do mutually contribute assistance to each other, if you live what hear, you you shall know more: "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine." Sin stupifies the memory, holiness fortifies it; no man hath a better memory than the practical Christian.

9. Study the art of forgetfulness. Themistocles said, "he would rather learn the art of forgetfulness than of memory." One saith, we shall never make progress, till we unlearn that well, which we learned ill. A boy will never spell well till he forget his wrong spelling. Socrates desired his scholars to unlearn what they had learned; so must you. "Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house." I dare not say, with some philosophers, that discipline is nothing else but Avayvwois, a remembrance: for they held, that souls existed before they were in these bodies, as Pythagoras did. Indeed, if we respect Adam's perfect knowledge in innocency, there may be some truth in it; but, alas! by his fall, his intellect was obscured, and how soon he forgot God! We have lost God's image, and a new creation is necessary;* and how awfully have we descended into the grave of oblivion, remaining there till divine grace work the miracle of a first resurrection, and a second birth. The tablet must be made clean before you can write any thing on it; you must be "transformed by the renewing of your mind;" then you will approve God's will. No man can form a new impression in wax, till the old be defaced; so you must forget the world, its profits, pleasures, and honours, for better: they say, that children's memories are clear, because not ruffled with worldly circumstances. O that every soul were "as a weaned child!"§ for how oft do the cares of the world thrust out the word of God: and it were well if we were children in malice, forgetting injuries. That is a happy memory which forgets wrongs; yea, you must forget dearest relations, when standing in competition with Christ. And lastly, you must forget your duties, graces, and attainments, that you may "press forward" to what is before. It is the saying of an ancient, that the remembrance of past virtue

+ Rev. xx. 6.
§ Psal. cxxxi. 2.

John iii. 3.

2 Cor. v. 17.
Liquida sunt puerorum memoriæ.

Rom. xii. 2. ¶ Phil. iii. 13, 14.

is the ditch of the mind; that is, when a man thinks to merit by it, or when it puts a stop to further progress. If you look back as Lot's wife did, you are not fit for the kingdom of


10. And lastly, rely on the Holy Spirit for strengthening memory. It is God's promise, it is Christ's purchase:+ it must not be regarded as a cipher. You can do nothing without the Spirit's assistance: prize it, praise God for it, all good comes from it. The Holy Ghost makes ministers, overseers, to be your monitors. He indited the scriptures, works by the visible seals of the covenant, and surpasses all the phylacteries and other monitors of old: "Grieve not the Spirit," that would seal you; follow the Spirit's guidance, walk in it, be led by it, depend on his assistance, commit what you have to the Spirit of God, that he may bring it forth to you when you have most need. But above all, plead the promise of the Spirit, which our Lord saith, shall abide with his people for ever. Say, Lord, I have a slippery, deceitful memory; it will hold piles of vanity, but it lets slip profitable truths. I have lost many a good sermon truth and impression, and left to myself, shall do again; I have neither ability nor will to lay up any thing carefully, nor lay out seasonably, unless thy Spirit help me. My soul is a leaking vessel, close the leaks, fill it with living water, keep it from running out; open my heart as thou didst Lydia's, to thy divine influence; write thy name and law there in indelible characters; forgive my forgetfulness; give me the art of remembrance; come in, Holy Spirit, do thine office in me and for me. O for a present memory! Thou, O God, hast promised thy Holy Spirit to them that ask him, I know neither how, nor what to pray for as I ought, let the Spirit help my infirmities: take not away thy Holy Spirit from me. § When I am called before magistrates, let thy Spirit suggest to me what to answer: when I am assaulted with a temptation, or ready to step aside into sin, let thy Spirit be my monitor.

III. A further inquiry proposed, is, In what way the remembrance of their Creator may have influence upon the young, to promote practical godliness?

In answer to this inquiry, I shall briefly lay down the following considerations, which by the blessing of God may be of service to produce serious piety in young persons.

1. God created all things of nothing by the word of his power. This is an article of our faith, Heb. xi. 3, "Through

* Memoria virtutis, fovea mentis.-Greg. + John xiv. 26.
|| Gal. v. 16. § Luke xi. 13. Rom. viii. 26. Psal. li. 10, 11.

Eph. iv. 30.

faith we understand, that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." God had no matter to work upon, nor tools to work with; his own fiat produced all things out of the barren womb of non-entity, therefore I believe that God is omnipotent; to be believed on in his word, feared for his power, and trusted for his promises. I will with Abraham believe, "God who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were."* If God say the word who can contradict it? He is able to perform promises, and execute threatenings. He that made all things of nothing, can in a moment reduce me and all things to nothing; yea, can cast soul and body into hell. Who would not fear and tremble before this infinite Lord God? before whom all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing.† Our God is the true God-that hath made the earth by his power, established the world by his wisdom, and stretched out the heavens by his discretion. I will own no other God, but this world-making Jehovah.


2. God created man in his own image; Gen. i. 26, “ And God said let us make man in our image after our own likeness." It is four times repeated in two verses, to show the certainty of the thing, and accuracy of the workmanship. Owhat a fine, pure, perfect, unspotted creature was man, when he came out of God's hand! He was able to do God's will, rule himself, and all the creatures: but "how art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!" He was planted a noble vine, but is now a degenerate plant. The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, are as earthen pitchers;" such as were brought up in scarlet, embrace dunghills, we were God's Nazarites, " purer than snow, now our visage is blacker than a coal." O what a change! once God's glorious image was upon us, now the ugly image of the devil. Woe is me! O that this may humble me! the darling of heaven has now become the devil's slave; he who was Lord of the world is now degraded below the beasts of the field, I behold the fair estate that my ancestors once possessed, but by rebellion forfeited, and I am turned out. Woe is me!

3. God has created us capable of knowing, loving, serving, and enjoying himself. Man's body is "fearfully and wonderfully made, curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth."§ God made man of a better mould than the animal race. What an excellent production is man's body! Galen viewing thoroughly that little member, the eye, composed a hymn for the praise of

Rom. iv. 17.
Isa. xiv. 12. Jer. ii. 21.


+ Matt. x. 28. Jer. v. 22.

|| Lam. iv. 2, 5, 7, 8.

2 N

Deut. iv. 35.
§ Ps. cxxxix. 14, 15.

its creator. Some Creatures are abashed at the majestic countenance of man, but then what a masterpiece is the soul of man! upon which still remain some traits of God's image.* Even the meanest beggar and basest sinner, have impressions of God upon them more than brutes: for though the soul be depraved in its faculties, yet the substance thereof remains, it hath many excellent qualities. How capacious is the soul of man! It can pass through creation; it can consider the fabric, use, and beauty of animals; the signatures of plants, their nature and virtues; it can view the vast ocean, describe the sun's motions in the ecliptic; calculate tables for the moon and planets, and invent cycles for the computation of time, foretell future eclipses to the fraction of a digit; it can run backwards to a man's actions through many years; it can look forwards beyond death and the grave into another world; it can look inwards and dig into the hidden corners of the breast, where the vulture eye of another cannot pierce; yea, it can rise above the heavens to the being of God; for as Phidias carved his image so dexterously on the shield of Minerva, that it could never be taken out without breaking the whole to pieces, so there is some sense of a Deity in the worst of men. Therefore why should I not act like myself? Why do I not blow up those sparks of reason? O that I could show myself a man! Why may I not act rationally, though I cannot act spiritually without a new infused principle? A heathen could say, "I am greater, and born to greater things, than that my soul should be enslaved by my sensual appetites." I will now act like a man; plants, beasts, and fishes act according to their kind, why should not I? I will go as far as I can, and see what grace will do.‡

4. God created man after his own image; therefore he, and he only, is able to repair this image in my soul. God's children are described, as being such as "put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him ;" yea, "in righteousness and holiness of truth." Both texts say, the new man is created, which is the proper work of omnipotence. I find, "that in me dwells no good thing;" that is, savingly good; and by nature, I am without strength, not able to work any good in my soul; yet, thou canst renew thine own image in me, thou hast even promised in the new covenant, "to put a new spirit within me." Lord, go again over thy work, which sin hath so marred and defaced; let me be thy" workmanship created in Christ Jesus to good

James iii. 9.

+Major sum et ad majora natus quam ut sim mancipium corporis.-Sen.

Ad ultimum virium.

Col. iii. 10. Eph. iv. 24. Rom. vii. 18.

« PreviousContinue »