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I PET. V. 8.
BL SOBER, BE VIGILANT; BECAUSE YOUR AD
YERSARY, THE DEVIL, AS A ROARING LION, WALKETH ABOUT, SEEKING WHOM HE MAY DEVOUR.
ERE are two rules given us, enforced by a
We must first be sober. This word, in the original, relates chiefly to temperance in drinking; but it may easily be extended, and was probably meant to be extended, to all things in which temperance is concerned. This gives it a great range among Christian virtues.
We must next be vigilant. The usefulness of vigilance arises from the proneness of human na• See Parkhurst's Lexicon.
ture to negligence. Temperance, which acts as a restraint on all our passions and appetites, is very apt to relax. Such desultory temperance forms no habit. It is the habit of temperance, which religion requires; and which it is the office of vigilance to produce.
Lastly, to awaken us to this vigilance, these two rules are enforced by a reason. Our adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. .
Whether the devil, as a tempter, has power over mankind, at this time, is a question, which hath often been decided with more boldness than argument. It is certain the Scriptures seem to favour the opinion of such existence; and it is as certain, that we know nothing of the nature of fpirit, except from Scripture. Good men also often experience such subtile temptations, as they can not account for on any principle, except that of a seducing agent.—But whether we take the lion of the text for some wicked agent, or for temptation in general, still it forms an argument very conclufive, We are always in the midst of temptations, and cannot be too much on our guard against them,
EXCEPT A MAN BE BORN AGAIN, HE CANNOT
ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.
W E are here instructed to prepare ourselves
W for the kingdom of heaven, in opposition to that preparation, which the magistrate thinks sufficient for the kingdoms of this world.
The good of society alone is his object. Keep your desires, he cries, within such bounds as not to injure your fellow citizens, and I am satisfied.
But religion goes deeper. We are members, it informs us, of a higher kingdom, into which we must be born, as it were anew. We must not be satisfied with restraining the outward act; we must purify the inward affection.
Thus then we are, in fact, members of two different societies, for which two different modes of preparation are required. Which of these modes of preparation is superior, may be seen, by considering the first as qualifying us only for one society—the other for both. The soldier may fight for glory, or plunder—and the statesman may court popularity. Each may benefit fociety; yet as neither has yet made any ground in the doctrine, which enjoins him to be born again; so neither, of course, is qualified for the kingdom of heaven. Whereas, he who is born again—whose actions are governed by the laws of the kingdom of heaven, not only qualifies himself for that kingdom, but promotes more uniformly the good also of thať inferior fociety of which he is a member. Thus the soldier who fights for glory of reward, if he have reason to believe he shall attain neither, withdraws from the service as soon as he can: he has no other motive to push him oni while the soldier who acts under a sense of religion, has nothing to do with the motives of glory and reward. He acts under higher influence, and obeys the call of his country, as long as his services are required.
Such a character, we are told, is ideal. It does not exist. We all mix glory, or reward, or other worldly motives, with our pursuits.
In a degree, no doubt, we do: but perhaps not in so full a degree as the objector may suppose. However, on a supposition the objection were true, it is still no argument against the doctrine. We are not contending how many, or how few observe the doctrine; but only affert fimply, that if the doctrine were observed, the effect would be, as it is here represented.
This again the objector denies. The maxims of the Gospel, he observes, are so opposite to the maxims of the world, that they are unfit to qualify men as soldiers, statesmen, or members of a community in any shape; and that no man, who strictly adheres to them, can exert himself properly in any civil department.
This is a bold affertion. But in order to settle it, the doctrines of Christianity must be well examined--they must be compared with the interests of mankind and the impoflibility of a union must be shewn from examples, which have failed, not through want of abilities, (for religion cannot secure abilities,) but through mere adherence to religious principles.-We assert, therefore, that on a supposition two men have equal abilities, he who