« AnteriorContinuar »
Daniel xj. 32. The people that do know their God, shall be strong.
THE follies and vices which disfigure human life, do not always proceed from a principle of depravity. The thoroughly abandoned who sin from, fore-thought and contrivance, who commit iniquity upon a fixed p'aP, and who are wicked merely from a love of wickedness, I hope and believe are not a numerous class. The indiscretions and vices into which men fall, I am apt to imagine proceed often from a weakness of mind, rather than from a badness of heart. There is a certain feebleness in the springs of actions, a facility of disposition, a silliness of soul, which marks the character, and runs through the life of many men, as pernicious to them in the conduct of life, as a principle of actual depravity could be. Persons of this class, properly speaking, sustain no character at all. They assert not the rights of an independent Being, they make no original efforts of mind, but patiently surrender themselves to accident, tp beguided by events, and to be fashioned by those with whom (hey live. They have not strength of mind t6 stand alone, they dare not walk in a path unless it is beaten. Feebleness, fluctuation, timidity, irresolution, fill up the period of their insignificant days, and often betray them into crimes as well as indiscretions.
This weakness of mind is not only pernicious but criminal. There are mental defects that are incpn> sistent with a state of virtue. The Sacred Scriptures never draw the line of distinction between intellectual and moral qualities, but prescribe both as requisite to form the character of the righteous man. Hence a sound mind, as well as a good heart, is mentioned as an ingredient in the character of a saint. Hence, in the sacred books, religion and virtue go under the name of wisdom, vice and wickedness under the name of Jolly. Hence intellectual qualities become the subject of divine precept, and we are called upon to be wise and to be strong, as well as to be holy and to be pure. In opposition to the feeble-minded, it is said in the text, that they who know their God, or are truly religious, are strong. Religion, when rightly understood, and virtue, when properly practised, give nerves and vigour to the mind, infuse into the soul a secret strength, and, presenting a future world to our faith, make us superior to the dangers and temptations of the present,
To shew what this strength is, I shall set before you some of the most remarkable scenes in human life in which the feeble-minded give way, and in which they who know their God are strong. This strength then inspired into the mind by the knowledge of God, makes us superior to the opinion and fashion of the world, superior to the difficulties and dangers of the world, superior to the pleasures and temptations of the world, and superior to desponding fears at our departure from the world.
In the first place, It makes us superior to the opinion and fashion of the world.
To sustain an amiable character, so as to be beloved by those with whom we live, to maintain a sacred regard to the approbation of the wise and good, and to follow those things which are of good report, when at the same time they are pure, and lovely, and honourable, is the duty of every honest man. But unhappily the bulk of the world is not composed-of the wise and good; religion and virtue are not always in the fashion; to fix the rule of life, therefore, by the public approbation or dislike, is to make the standard of morality uncertain and variable. According to this doctrine, the Christian life would be the work of mere caprice, there would be a fashion in morals as well as in dress, and what is virtue or vice in one age or country, would not be so in another. In such critical cases, when truth is to be defended, or integrity to be held fast against the current of popular opinion, the feeble-minded are apt to make shipwreck of the faith. The feeble-minded man rests not upon himself, he has nothing within to support him, he thinks and acts, and lives by the opinion of others. *' What '' will the world say ?" is the question that he puts to himself on all occasions. Thou fool! look inwards; thine own heart will tell thee more than all the world. This pusillanimous deference to the opinions of others, this criminal compliance to the public voice, will make you lose your all, your soul.
t - < ... *
Hence, in certain companies, men are ashamed of their religion. They lend a pleased ear to arguments that shake the foundations of their faith: they join in the laugh that is raised at the expenceof all that they hold sacred and venerable, and themselves assume the spirit, and speak the words of profaneness, while the heart often secretly agonizes for the liberties of the tongue. In opposition to such characters, the man who is truly religious, performs his duty through bad report as well as through good. The applause of such fools as make a mock at sin, he despises. His standard of moral conduct, is bis own conscience Well informed by the word of God. He knows that the fashion of the world passeth away, and vice or folly is not recommended to him by being practised.by others. He remembers the words oi his Master, "Whosoever shall be ashamed of me, of him shall the "Son of man be ashamed." He dares to be singular and good: " Though all men forsake thee, yet will "not I."
In the second place, This strength inspired by true religion, makes us superior to the difficulties and dangers we meet with in the world.
The feeble-minded man is, intimidated upon the slightest occasion : he starts at difficulties, and shrinks from dangers, whenever they present themselves. Happy to catch at any subterfuge, he finds, or makes a thousand obstacles to the discharge of his duty; and when any thing great is to be done, " there is a lion in the way." What infinite mischief has this pusillanimity done in the world! How often has the best and most generous cause been lost by the weakness of its defenders! How often have the most innocent and worthy characters suffered by the shameful cowardice of their friends ! How often have men purchased to themselves an inglorious ease, an infamous tranquillity, at the expence of character and conscience, and every thing great and good!
Very different is the character of him who is strong in the Lord. When he is assured he is in the right path, he sees no obstacles in the way. Nothing is difficult to a determined mindj Through the divine aid, resolution is omnipotent. To the unwearied efforts of persevering courage, art and nature have yielded: and there is a ladder by which the heavens may be scaled. Through Christ strengthening him, the man of God can do all things. No appearance of difficulty, no form of danger, no face of death terrifies him from doing his duty. He gives up his possessions, his country, his parents, his friends, hl3 wife and children, his own life also, rather than desert the post of honour assigned to him by Providence. "None of these things move me," saith an apostle, "neither account 1 my life dear unto myself, so "that I may finish my course with joy. What mean "you to weep and to break my heart ? for I am will"ing not to be bound only, but to die at Jerusalem, "for the name of the Lord Jesus."
This was not the vain boast of men who were brave when the day of battle was distant, and who, in the midst of tranquillity, talked of despising danger. It was the speech of one who acted what he spoke. To the confirmation of it, we can adduce a cloud of witnesses, an host of martyrs, multitudes of all nations, and ages, and conditions, for whom the flames of the tormentor were kindled to no purpose ; against whom the sword Of persecution was drawn in vain; who held fast their integrity, though they knew death to be the consequence, and followed their Redeemer in a path that was marked with blood. Among these martyrs, doubtless there were many who naturally were as feeble, and flexiblej and timorous, as any of you are I'but when they were inspired with this hidden strength, and were supported by the everlasting arms, the timorous waxed valiant, and the feeble became strong in the Lord.