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SERMON XXII.

THE ONE THING NEEDFUL.

LUKE X. PART OF VERSE 42.

ONE THING IS NEEDFUL.

For the knowledge of this beautiful incident in the life of Jesus Christ, and for the advantage which may be derived from due reflection upon the lesson which it supplies, we are indebted to the Evangelist St. Luke. He has indeed inserted in his Gospel many particulars and many discourses not recorded by the other Evangelists—for instance, some circumstances connected with the nativity; and some of the most striking and instructive parables, as the Rich Man and Lazarus, the Prodigal Son, the Good Samaritan, and the Publican and Pharisee. But from none of these, touching though they be and improving in the highest degree; as indeed every thing that fell from the lips of Jesus is calculated to affect, to inform, to enlighten, and to purify; yet from none of these do we derive such important advice, conveyed in such an agreeable and compendious form, as from that memorable sentence, “ One thing is needful.”

You are, no doubt, well aware of the occasion, upon which these words were uttered. But the description is so very lively yet so simple ; and contains such an admirable specimen of the manner, in which our Divine Master availed himself of every opportunity to convey instruction, that I am sure you will be anxious again to hear the interesting and characteristic narrative.

“ It came to pass”, says the Sacred Writer, “ that He entered into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard His word. But Martha was cumbered about much serving; and came to Him, and said “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me.' And Jesus answered and said unto her, • Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things; but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'»

What “the one thing needful” is—what is the allimportant concern and indispensable duty of manwhat is the prevailing interest, the only thing intrinsically and absolutely worth attention-requires, I should hope, little or no explanation. Few at least of those, who have the good habit of attending in this holy place, can have occasion to be reminded, that religion is the one thing needful; the welfare of our immortal souls the leading, great concern of us all. Indeed ignorance of our duty, and of our best and dearest interests, is not so much to be urged as the just subject of complaint to a Christian audience; especially such an audience, as is usually assembled here; but the real ground of complaint and of sorrow too, as to the generality of Christians, is inattention to our duty when known ; indifference to our highest interests, when they are pointed out. In this inattention lies our chiefest fault; in this indifference our great criminality. Yet one would think, if men were once thoroughly persuaded that religion is the one thing needful; and attention to the welfare of our souls, the most essential interest; they would lay aside something of that culpable negligence, which is so continually apparent in matters of duty; and wisely, as well as piously, resolve to “ choose that good part, which shall not be taken away from them.” In the energetic language of the Apostle, “ they would lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset them, and run with patience the race that is set before them, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of their faith.” a

It is plain then that this is a subject, which cannot be brought too often, or too earnestly, before a Christian audience; of whatever character it

may

be composed; whatever may have been their previous habits; whatever their age and station. For no living creature is exempt either from the frailty or the responsibility, which adhere to every child of Adam. All, without any exception, must stand before the judgment-seat of Christ; all equally without exception must give account of the things that they have done in the body, whether they be good or bad. If there be one thing more needful in the world than any other, we cannot be too often reminded of it; if there be one concern more worthy the pursuit than any other, it cannot be too frequently set before us. If again, from a variety of unhappy causes, there be a disposition to undervalue this “one thing needful”; to neglect a concern of such vast importance; the danger of such conduct cannot be represented in colours too strong; nor can we endeavour with too much earnestness to rouse our fellow-creatures from a state of fatal insensibility to the hope of infinite gain or the dread of infinite loss; and to check their

a Hebrews xii. 1, 2.

presumptuous disregard of truths which they cannot disprove, and of duties which they dare not disown.

Let us then proceed to inquire more particularly, why religion and its concerns should be considered “ the one thing needful”; so needful, that in comparison of religion ; its duties, its hopes, its consolations, its promises ; nothing, that this short-lived and precarious world can promise, is to be considered in its own nature necessary or valuable. Now the truth of this will immediately appear,

if we remember that religion, besides affording many advantages and comforts even in this life, yet extends itself much more to the life which is to come. So that if, in this life, we were constrained to exclaim with St. Paul that we were of all men most miserable, even such an extremity and continuance of suffering should not appal us. For so animating are the prospects, and so convincing the assurances, of religion, that in return for trouble and vexation and affliction so endured, the good Christian looks forward, with a well-founded yet trembling hope, to the joys and rewards of immortality. If, during our

whole continuance here, it should please God to aśsign us a cup of bitterness; yet would it be our duty, yet would it be our wisdom, to drink it to the dregs with cheerfulness, if it proved the means of procuring for us a station of bliss, of enjoyment, through the revolving ages of eternity. He, who firmly holds fast the one thing needful, amidst the poignancy of the most smarting anguish, dwells upon the gladdening exclamation of the Psalmist_“In the midst of the sorrows that I had in my heart, Thy comforts have refreshed my soul.” Through the dim and sickening mists of this vale of tears, he looks forward to a distant and brighter scene, “where they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their

A portion of evil, however galling; of affliction, however severe; may surely be endured for a short time—and let it be remembered that the longest period of our earthly duration is but short, when compared with an endless existence-evil, I say, and affliction and pain, and the thousand heart-aches that mortality is heir to, may surely be endured for a few years, if, at the close, we are admitted to a participation in “joys, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive."

I am however now putting an extreme case'; one

eyes.”

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a Revel. vii. 16, 17.

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