« AnteriorContinuar »
bour, slander another, and enrich myself with the spoils of all; it is not religion that will complain of him; all the oppressed will "clap their hands at him, hiss him out of his place," and say, "God forbid that we should justify you till we die." The most innocent of all employments in the world, husbandry I mean, may become extremely wicked, and always does so, when it is pursu ed to the neglect of religion. Husbandmen rise early: they have therefore a fitter opportunity to pray. Husbandmen leave off business early: they have therefore much cool evening leisure to devote to religion. Husbandmen have seasons in which they can do no business in the fields: they have then great opportunities for religious improvement. Husbandmen have but few temptations to dissipation: they have therefore great liberty to turn their attention to religion. Husbandmen watch times and seasons, and are perpetually employed in examining the powers and productions of the earth: they therefore spend their days in a library of books written with the finger of God himself; "Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour until the evening," and a very stupid man must he be, who doth not see reason to exclaim, "O Lord, how manifold are thy works! In wisdom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches." Let no man say then, I have 66 ground" and " oxen, and therefore I cannot come, I pray thee have me excused :" but let him rather say, I have "ground" and "oxen," and therefore I can come ; and tillage, and feeding cattle, and all my employments will render me inexcusable, if I do not love and adore that God, who saith, "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib but I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me."
The man in the text was not one of this sort; he did enter into a profession of religion, and sat with the "guests," when "the king came in to see" them; for, my brethren, there are many unworthy professors of religion, who are not born again, and who therefore have nothing of religion but the name. Let us examine these men, and as we have proved that it is a fault, and a man's own fault entirely, not to profess himself a disciple of
Jesus Christ, so it is entirely the fault of a professor of religion, if he be no more than a professor. Every excuse that can be urged why a disciple in name should not be a disciple in deed, is an aggravation of the offence, because the same reasons, which oblige a man to profess himself a Christian, oblige him to be one. The man in the text may well be "speechless," for what can he say to the question, Friend, for such you profess yourself to be, "how camest thou in hither" without the dispositions of a friend? Let any man in this assembly show a good substantial reason, why he is not a Christian in deed as well as in name. Can any reason be taken from religion itself, the employments of life, the condition of man, the perfections of God, or the state of the church, and the world?
We have said a thousand times, that the Christian religion is so easy to be understood, and all the duties of it so free from difficulty, that nothing but an excess of depravity can keep men destitute of it. Examine this question, "What doth the Lord require of thee?" Doth he require thee to suppress thy desire of knowing, forbid thee to examine, and order thee to sink into the ignorance of a beast? Doth he require thee to travel and study, and search to find out a religion proper to glorify him, and to satisfy you? Doth he require "thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil," offerings beyond thine ability to procure? Doth he require you to sacrifice the dearest comforts of life, your "first-born for your transgression, the fruit of your body for the sin of your soul?" Nothing of all these. He doth not require thee to find out a religion : "he hath shewed thee" one. He doth not require thee to waste thy property but to do good with it; "he hath shewed to thee, O man, what is good." He doth not require thee to crucify thine affections, but to gratify them; "What doth the Lord require of thee but to love mercy?" He doth not require thee to rack thine invention first to commit sin, and then to conceal the horror of it; but he requires thee to be useful and happy by "doing justly." He doth not expect thee to flame with the zeal of an angel. or to preach with the powers of an
apostle; "What doth the Lord require of thee but to walk humbly with thy God?" He doth not expect thee to act without rule, or to believe without proof: but when he condescends to set before you proofs to produce conviction, and laws to regulate all your actions: when his condescension stoops to render those proofs and rules 80 plain, that he may run that readeth them;" what can be said of you, except what a Prophet declares, "Behold, his soul is not upright in him?”
Would you think it, Christians? this want of uprightness, this depraved condition of man, becomes in the mouth of the person whom we are reproving, an excuse for his continuance in sin: and yet this very depravity is a strong reason to induce men to flee for succour to religion. What a perverse way of talking is this! I am ignorant, and therefore I ought not to search the Scriptures to become wise. I am weak, and disinclined to my duty, and therefore I ought not to examine the motives of religion, lest they should compel me to perform my duty. I am "in danger of hell fire" for living in anger and malice, and therefore, though Jesus Christ hath instructed men how to avoid the flames of future punishment, yet I ought not to follow his directions. I am in a state of guilt, God treats me as a parent would a froward child, and sets before me forgiveness and favour, and therefore I ought to "despise the riches of his goodness," and affect "not to know that the goodness of God leadeth to repentance." I must die, and if I "believe not" that Jesus is the Messiah, I shall "die in my sins faith is the gift of God," and God hath said, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." I cannot ask with such fervour and spirituality as I ought, and therefore I determine not to ask at all. "Faith cometh by hearing:" I will hear, but I will not so hear as to determine me to believe: I ought to hear the sound of the Gospel, but I ought not to attend to the sense and meaning, lest I should receive a conviction that the truths taught are worthy of credit. In a word, I ought to profess Christianity as if it were true, and to live as if it were false: I ought (for I
am a fallen, depraved creature) to act the part of Judas, saying, "Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is guilty of death, hold him fast." This is the wayward language of the life of an unconverted professor of the Christian religion. His words are, "I cannot:" but Christ, who knows him better than he knows himself, says, " He will not." If a man had made the trial, but could not succeed, there would be some reason in an excuse taken from depravity: but with what face can a man, who never examines, complain that he cannot understand?
Is there any thing in the employments of life to furnish an excuse for the neglect of religion? To reduce the question to a narrow compass, suffer me to ask, Is there any employment on the Lord's day that can furnish such an excuse? That day is purposely set apart for religious exercises, and if that one day be properly spent, religion must be understood, and if it be understood on the first day of the week, it will be practised the other six days. I do not say, a man cannot employ himself on that day in exercises inconsistent with religion. Alas! how much business do our sinful passions engage us to do on that day! What idleness! What sauntering about! What insignificant visits! What senseless labours do some men employ themselves in on the Lord's day! Let us however remember, that both religion and law require us to spend the day in the service of God; and of all men husbandmen are the least excusable if they profane the Lord's day. Custom overcomes law and religion in some towns and cities, and compels many a weary worldling to perpetual drudg ery, not excepting even the Lord's day but in the country, where there are no fairs, no markets, no labours of the field, nothing to interrupt; how intolerable is the excuse of worldly employments! You may on the Lord's day hear the Gospel; you may read it and hear it read; you may converse with one another on the meaning; you may pray yourselves, and you may join with your fellow Christians in social prayer: what may you not do of this kind without neglecting any one honest employment of life? There are in the four Gospels only eighty-nine chapters, and were each family to
read only two chapters each Lord's day, the whole would be examined in much less than one year, and consequently the excuse, which ignorance takes from business, is to the last degree contemptible. The man who would make this excuse must, in his own opinion, be "speechless."
I said, some men pretend to take excuses for their negligence from the perfections of God: but to speak more properly, they take them from the imperfections of God. They ascribe imperfections to him, which are impossible to his nature, and then they reason from these imaginary defects. Hear one of these wicked and slothful servants, who though he had hid his Lord's talent, yet presumed to describe God as if he had spent his life in improving it. "I knew thee, Lord, that thou art a hard man, reaping where thou hast not sowed, and gathered where thou hast not strawed:" that is, I have formed such a notion of God as good men form of the devil, and I have acted accordingly: "I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth." You see, such a faith, such a practice. Nothing is more common than for men to form gross notions of God, and as surely as they do form them, they act agreeably to their notions. "Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself." And what saith God to such vain thinkers? "Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldst take my covenant in thy mouth, seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee?" Thou idle soul, thou, who didst never in thy life spend one single hour in studying the nature and government of God, dost thou pretend to describe him? Be "speechless:" thou knowest nothing of this subject. No, there is nothing in any of the perfections of God to furnish an unconverted man with an excuse for his sin. Will he speak of the goodness of God? But he insults that goodness. Will he speak of his power? But the power of God is the guardian of a good man, not of a rebel from the demands of justice. Will he speak of the wisdom of God, and tell how able he is to inform the mind, and change the heart in a dying moment? But what right