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deny themselves nothing which they have set their hearts upon, and frequently plunge themselves into inextricable difficulties by their luxury and extravagance; borrowing the words of Solomon-“Whatever their eyes desire they keep not from them; they withhold not their heart from any joy."
3. An increase of natural wisdom and knowledge ;-an improvement in the several branches of literature, either to gratify our mental taste, or recommend us to the esteem of others. The mysteries of religion are disregarded by many, whilst they employ all their powers in diving into the mysteries of nature, and at length turn out mere sceptics, or downright infidels. Thus, their superior talents only set them at a greater distance from God; and their larger capacity and closer application make them capable of doing the greater mischief to their neighbours.
4. Long life is another thing we greatly wish for; and, indeed, it is spoken of as a blessing in Scripture. But be it a blessing or not, --for it is certain that to all it is not so,--yet it is generally desired. Even those who are fit to die, yet are not always willing to die, but would have their days stretched out to a greater length, though it is only the prolonging of their misery and pain. Wicked men, if they might, would live always; for this world they know, but with the other they are perfectly unacquainted; and good men would live a little longer, to see their families settled, and have their evidences for heaven more bright and clear. Even David himself cries out, “O spare me, that I may recover strength before I go hence, and be no more!"
5. The last thing that I shall mention, as earnestly coveted by many, is a posthumous fame and reputation, that their names may be transmitted to posterity, and an honourable mention made of them after they are dead. For this, they raise great estates, build noble palaces, write large volumes, fight battles, conquer kingdoms, and perhaps do many praiseworthy actions. This was the principle which
was ever formed in the minds of men —" to build a city and a tower, whose top might reach unto heaven." The great thing they aimed at, as the text informs us, was to make them a name, that they might be talked of when they were dead. Rather than die and leave no memorandum behind them, they would leave this monument of their pride, ambition, and folly. Now, above all the things beforementioned, true wisdom, or real goodness, holds a preeminent place. It is justly preferred to them all; and to show in what respects it is so, was proposed as the second head of discourse. Let me, then, claim your attention to the following things:
1. It is of a higher original. It is called wisdom from above. It is taught by God's word, and infused into us by his Holy Spirit. It is the offspring of Deity. Its descent is from heaven, and its tendency thither.
2. It is more certainly and easily obtained. With respect to all the foregoing things, our pursuits may be fruitless, and our expectations disappointed. Our most passionate desires and vigorous endeavours may be in vain; but if we cry for wisdom, and lift up our voice for understanding; if we seek her as silver, and search for her as for hid treasures; then shall we understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. “I run," says the apostle, uncertainly.” Can the worldling or the epicurean say so?
3. It is more excellent in its own nature: it is that better part which cannot be taken away. What are the riches of this world to riches laid up in heaven; the honour that comes from man, to that which is conferred by God; a terrestrial, to a celestial diadem; the pleasures of sense, to peace of conscience; or the largest possession on earth, to an interest in Christ? Other things relate to the body, but wisdom concerneth the soul, enlarges and purifies its faculties, and is, at the same time, its ornament and defence. It also renders us conformable to God; and is a necessary qualification both for his service here and the enjoyment of him hereafter. It is the root of the righteous that
“ but not
beareth fruit both in this world and the next. To which I may add,
4. It is everlasting in its duration. “ Riches make to themselves wings,” honour is an empty puff of air, knowledge vanisheth, desire faileth; nay, the fashion of this world, and every thing in it, passeth away; but the wisdom spoken of in my text, that is, internal vital religion, is a permanent and abiding principle, an incorruptible seed, a well of water that springeth up to everlasting life; it rises superior to all opposition, and will outlast the wreck of time and the ruins of the creation.
O, then, let us get this wisdom; and, with all our gettings, get understanding! This will answer all our expectations, recompense all our labour, make us happy in time, and happy to all eternity; for he that findeth it findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
ON THE VALUE OF THE SOUL.
PSALM Xxxv. 17.
My darling from the lions.
David, in this Psalm, complains of the ill treatment he had met with both from his pretended friends and professed enemies, and here applies to God for help and deliverance. “ Lord,” says he,“ how long wilt thou look on? how long wilt thou be an unconcerned, inactive, spectator of my miseries? how long wilt thou look upon me without pity, and mine oppressors without indignation ? how long wilt thou seem to connive at their wickedness, and turn a deaf ear to my complaints ? Rescue my soul from their destructions ;—from the destructions they have brought upon others, and are continually plotting to bring upon me; from their sins and their plagues.” And then, he adds, “my darling,"—no doubt referring to his soul, spoken of before,—" from the lions.” Some render it,“ my only one;" that is, the principal, if not the only, object of his attention. Others," my lonely and solitary one;" intimating that he was left and forsaken by others, and had none to trust in but God. But there seems to be peculiar beauty as well as propriety in our translation; something very striking in the expression—" my darling." From these words, the two following things may be observed :That the good man's soul is his darling; and that being so, he is greatly concerned for its security.
1. The good man's soul is his darling. It is not so with wicked men ; they make it a slave,-nay, a slave to sin and Satan, to every vile lust and inordinate passion. In opinion, they despise it; in practice, they degrade it; they abuse it with palpable falsehoods, disquiet it with imaginary griefs, distract it with unnecessary cares ; and are in no concern to have its wants supplied, its diseases healed, its burdens removed, or its eternal welfare secured. They employ it in the basest drudgery, and expose it to the greatest misery. But the good man's soul is his darling. He honours, loves, and cherishes it, is anxiously concerned for its happiness, and makes it his chief, nay, in some sense, his only care. And this for the following reasons :
1. He understands its true nature, and the surprising power sand faculties with which it is endowed.
" It is the breath of the Almighty:""and formed after his similitude.” This, however true it may be of the angels, is not said of them, nor of any other creature in heaven or earth. The eternal Son of God was made after the likeness of sinful flesh: but the soul of man, after the likeness or image of the holy God. Like him it is invisible, immaterial, and immortal. It derives its being from the Father of spirits ; and though he can, yet he never will, put a period to its existence. How quick are its perceptions, how lively its sensations, and how large and extensive its views !
It lives throughout;
All head, all eye, all ear,
In a moment of time it travels through universal space, visits the various parts of God's vast and unbounded empire, and returns fraught with new discoveries, and filled