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No sooner does he enter this house than we find him teaching.
Let us follow his example. Ministers should not be backward to speak unless before large and public assemblies. The Apostles, like their Saviour, not only taught publicly, but from house to house. Christians should labour to be useful wherever they are: every place, everv company should be the better for them. They should render friendly, and even ordinary visits edifying. Religion » not to be confined to the Church or the Sabbath. It is not to be a dress, which you may assume or lay aside at pleasure: it is a nature; a life. It is to keep us " in the fear of the Lord all the day long:" to enter business with us; to attend us in all our common actions; and to teach us that "whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do it to the glory of God." Hence we are commanded to "comfort one another; to exhort one another; to provoke one another to love, and to good works, and—so much the more as we see the day approaching." But, alas! who does not stand reproved and condemned ?" Are we not carnal, and walk as men?" Do we "redeem the time because the days are evil?" Does "no communication proceed out of our mouth, but such as is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers?" Shall "vain words never have an end !"—" A word fitly spoken, how good is it! it is like apples of gold in pictures of silver!"
II. Observe How Improper It Is For A
FOLLOWER OF THE Lord J ESI S TO BE SENSUAL
And Selfish. Mary who hears his word pleases him better than Martha who prepares his meal: yea, Martha even grieves him by her assiduity to entertain him. He would rather feed than be fed. He pleased not himself. He shunned every kind of self-indulgence. He "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." And callmg ourselves by his name, are we fanciful? are we finical? are we fond of giving trouble? are we slaves to our appetites? are we desirous of dainty meat? "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked. They that are Christs have crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts."
Especially should ministers be like-minded with their Lord and Master. They often at least occasion excess, and draw upon themselves reflection. The preparations made to receive them would imply a fondness for extravagance-, variety, delicacy. Let them attost tlifir innocency. Let them show their ucoplp that they seek not theirs but them. Let theui, by their words and actions, discountenance paradn and excess. Are circuti isumces of thin k i nd beneath our attention? Is it not one of the lessons which the passage before us is designed to teach? When our
Saviour sent forth his Apostles, did not tut admonitions turn principally upon this subject? For things in themselves of unequal importance with others, become weighty by their connexions, their influence, their indications. A feather, or a straw, may serve to discover the direction of the wind, as well as a tree. What a fatal secret does that preacher betray who shows that he minds earthly things!
III. We SEE WHAT DIVERSITIES THERE ARE IN THE FOLLOWERS OF nil LORD. Even
the good ground brought forth in various proportion—thirty—sixty—an hundred fold. What a difference was there between the faith of the Centurion and of Thomas! Abraham and Lot were both righteous, but how imperfect does the nephew appear compared with the uncle!
Many things diversify the degree and the exercises of religion. Thus the stations in which Providence places good men differ; one shall be favourable to devotion, another shall afford less leisure and create more distraction. Constitutional complexion also haj its influence. Thus some Christians are more inclined to contemplation and the shades; others are formed for the active virtues. The difficulties which chill the timid serve only to rouse and animate the bold and courageous. Religion, like water, partakes a little of the nature of the soil over which it runs. The very same truth was revealed both to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel—the succession of the four monarchies. Nebuchadnezzar was a king and a conqueror; and admired things ir. proportion to their worldly grandeur. Accordmgly he viewed these empires as an image whose brightness was excellent, the head of which was fine gold, and the subordinate parts of inferior metal. Daniel was a man of peace and of wisdom: and to him they appeared "as four great beasts, coming out of the sea, diverse from each other: the first a lion with wings; the second a bear with three ribs in its mouth; the third a leopard with four wings of a fowl, and four heads; and the fourth dreadful and terrible, with iron teeth." Take an illustration from it Imagine four persons—one phlegmatic, another choleric, i third sanguine, and the fourth melancholic— drop religious truth into each of these—and do you suppose that it will not receive a tinge from each peculiar temperament? to all these cases something of the original character will remain. And I always view it as a considerable evidence of sincerity when religion, if I may use the expression, acta naturally; it shows that people arc off their guard; that they have not a particular part given them to act For were this the case. I they would resemble one another much more nearly; and a dull constrained uniformity would prevail. Thus it is with pretenders. If a man of humour professes religion without
possessing it, he will keep a check upon himself, and by means of this, appear grave and formal: but if he be really a partaker of religion, we should expect that his natural character will commonly show itself even in his duties; it will indeed be regulated, but not destroyed.
IV. WE MAY MEET WITH HINDERANCES IN RELIGION FROM THOSE WHO SHOULD BE out
Assistants. Such are friends and relations. A wife should cherish good impressions, fan the flame of devotion, and be a helper to her husband in spiritual as well as in temporal concerns—but she may prove a seducer: she may lead him into vanity and the dissipations of the world. Michal ridicules the holy joy of David. A brother may discourage a brother. A sister may reproach and repel a lister. Our foes may be those of our own household. Yea, even by religious friends and relations we may sometimes be injured. Instead of making straight paths for our feet, they may throw stumblingblocks in our way. They may press "hard sayings" before the mind is prepared to receive them. They may discourage us by their expressions of assurance and ecstasy. They may be wanting in sympathy. They may censure and condemn our actions from ignorance of our circumstances and motives.
V. HOW ANXIOUS SOEVER WE MAY BE ABODT MANY THINGS, ONE THING ALONE REALLY Deserves Our Attention:—"one thing is needful" It is hearing the Saviour's words; it is an attention to the soul; it is— Religion. What? is nothing else necessary? Yes; many things. But compared with this, they are less than nothing and vanity. Other things are accidentally needful—this is essentially so. Other things are occasionally needful—this is invariably so. Other things are partially needful—this is universally so —needful for prosperity and adversity; needful for the body and the soul; needful for time and eternity. Some things are needful for some individuals, but not for others; but this is needful for all: needful for kings and subjects; needful for rich and poor; needful for old and young.
If indeed we judge of it by the people of the world, we shall not think so when we look around us. The many seem to be prizing and pursuing every thing in preference to this. Instead of viewing it as essential to man, they seem only to regard it as a circumstance of his being and his welfare, which may safely be dispensed with. But let us take the testimony of God. What saith the Scripture? "Wisdom is the principal thing: therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." Yes, says the Saviour, "One thing is needful." Hence we find
David and Paul reducing every concern into one. "one thing have 1 desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." "This One thing I do: forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before."
Finally. It is worthy of our remark, that
REAL GODLINESS IS NOT ONLY A NECESSARY,
But A Durable Acquisition. "Mary ltath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her." Permanency adds bliss to bliss. Some things are not worth preservation; but an invaluable treasure, a thing absolutely needful, will awaken all our concern, and we shall be anxious not only to possess it, but also to retain it
And what a difference is there in this view, between religion and other advantages! Nothing that we here possess can be called our own. What we acquire with so much difficulty it is impossible to secure. If we choose honours, riches, pleasures, friendships, they will be sure to fail us, and to fail us often when we most need their aid. But the blessings we derive from godliness are our own for ever. They are not liable to those numberless accidents which so easily deprive us of earthly possessions. No violence, no fraud, can rob us of them. "Our joy no man taketh from us." Our treasure "moth and rust cannot corrupt, nor thieves break through and steal." Even the desolations of death, which strip us of every thing else, cannot touch the believer's portion: he can carry all his goods along with him into another world, where they will be for ever increasing. It is "an inheritance incorruptible, and undented, and that fadeth not away."
Surely religion is wisdom—and "wisdom is justified of all her children."
This review should therefore more than satisfy those who, like Mary, have chosen this good part Your choice will bear reconsideration. The more you examine it, the more worthy of all your regard will it appear. Be not ashamed to own it I.et religion be your boast, as well as your comfort What is there to excite a blush? What, in importance and continuance, are the pursuits and acquisitions of the most admired of your fellow-creatures, compared with yours i
It should also influence those who have not made it And oh that I could induce you to decide, and to decide this evening! I say, this evening, because you are not sure of another season. I say, this evening, because every delay adds to the difficulty of your choice. I say, this evening, because there is nothing so urgent; nothing that can equally claim or reward your attention.
Should you be induced to neglect this great salvation, what will be your reflections
in a dying hour, and before the bar of God! What wul you think in endless misery of those follies and vanities for which you sacrificed eternal life? "What is a man profited if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange ft)r his soul?"
He who approved and applauded Mary's choice is here this evening to witness yours. He sees you, he hears you; he is waiting to be gracious, and exalted to have mercy upon you. You must sit at his feet as a disciple, or be made his footstool as an enemy. What is the choice you intend to make? "I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live."
GOD ABANDONS THE INCOR-
Ephraim it joined to idols: let lam alone.
Nothing seems so absurd as idolatry. How surprising is it that a man should make a figure with his own hands, and then fall down and adore it! How wonderful is it that a being endued with reason, should worship reptiles and even vegetables! Nevertheless, this was the case for ages. "They changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping
things they changed the truth of God into
a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator who is blessed for ever."
Let us rejoice that the darkness is past, and that the true light now shineth. It is our privilege to live in a land of vision, where we are informed of a Being who made all things by the word of his power; who possesses unbounded excellences; and who deserves our supreme devotion. We know God; but, alas! we do not glorify him as God. Every unregenerate sinner is a little pagan world in himself: he has his gods, his temples, his altars, his sacrifices. And as the Jews of old were more criminal in their idolatry than the heathens, because they were favoured with a revelation of the only living and true God—so it is with those who call themselves Christians: their sin is increased by the means they possess of knowing and serving him.
What! you say, would you prove Christians to be idolaters!—Why not ?—What is idolatry? Is it not the transferring to the creature the homage due to the Creator? If therefore we love or fear any thing more than God; if we make it our portion, and de
pend upon it for our happiness, we ore chargeable with idolatry.
What do you think of the man who is more ambitious to obtain the applause of dying worms than "the honour that cometh from God only V—He is an idolater.
What do you think of the man who devotes himself to the lower gratifications of sense, or the more refined dissipations of fashion, and "loves pleasure more than God ?"— He is an idolater.
What do you think of the man whose thoughts and affections daily encircle the throne of mammon; whose earth-born soul cannot pass by a particle of shining dust without kneeling, and praying; who, to acquire it, rises and grinds the faces of the poor, and transgresses the laws of God; whose highest aim, and whose only business is to amass his thousands ?—Such a man, to use the words of Job," says to gold, Thou art my hope; and to fine gold, Thou art my confidence. "Hii wealth," says Solomon, " is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit" "He trusts," says the Apostle, " in uncertain riches." The covetous man therefore is expressly called "an idolater," and stands in this book "excluded from the kingdom of God."
Nations who depend for their protection and prosperity upon navies, armies, commerce,—and forget God—are idolaters. And families are idolaters who suspend their subsistence and welfare upon one individual, and suppose that if he were removed their eye could " no more see good."
All this is "trusting m man and making flesh our arm;" and in proportion as we do this, "the heart departeth from the Lord." And this is the essence of man's apostacy. Something besides God has his admiration and attachment, his hope and dependence; and whatever this be, whether an unage or an angel, it is, in the language of Seripture, "an idol."
Men may pretend to regard God, and to adore their idols too; but this is pronounced to be impossible. "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." "Ye adulterers and adulteresses! know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God ? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
They may not adore the same idols with others, for their dispositions and circumstances are various; and they may sometimes change their idols. But while any thing detains the heart from God, the man is in a state of perdition. And such is the infatuaHon of the sinner, that though always deceived and often confounded, he still goes on; he holds fast deceit; and refuses to return—till God rising in displeasure resolves to abandon him—and cries—" He is joined to idols—let him alone."
There is something in this declaration uncommonly dreadful. And this will appear—
First, if you Distinguish This Desertion
PROM ANOTHER, WHICH MAY BEFALL EVEN THE SUBJECTS OF DIVINE GRACE. Of this God
speaks when he says, "I will go and return to my place till they acknowledge their offence and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early." Thus God sometimes leaves his people when they are becoming high-minded, to convince them of their dependence upon him. He leaves them to their own strength to show them their weakness; and to their own wisdom to make them sensible of their ignorance. By their embarrassments they are soon made to feel how unable they are to manage their own affairs; and no longer exercise themselves in great matters, or m things too high for them. Thus, to convince the child who is regardless of your counsel that it is not safe for him to go without your guiding and sustaining hand, you leave him where the danger is not great, or where you could seize him as he fells—though you would not say, " let him alone," if you saw him climbing up a ladder, or crossing a deep river on a narrow plank.
Thus God may leave his people—but this diflers exceedingly from the abandoning of the incorrigible. The one is from love; the other is from wrath. The one is the trial of wisdom, varying its means; the other is the decision of justice, after means have been used in vain. The one is to reform, the other is to destroy. The one is partial; and always leaves something of God behind, which will urge us to seek after him: the other is total and final. Consider, Secondly, that This Leaying Of
THE SINNER IS A WITHDRAWING FROM HIM EVERY THING THAT HAS A TENDENCY TO DO
Him Good.—" Let him alone."
Ministers!" Let him alone." He has complained of your fidelity. He has called you the troublers of Israel. Disturb him no more.
Saints!" Let him alone." Withdraw your intercourse. Cease your reproofs.
Thou all quickening word!" Let him alone." Rise not up in his remembrance. Place before him no promises to invite, nor threatenings to alarm.
Conscience, thou internal monitor!" Let him alone." Before the commission of sin— never warn: and after the commission of sin —never condemn. Let him enjoy his crimes. Never mention a judgment to come. Never let him hear that the end of these things is death. Never try to refute those false reason
ings by which he would reconcile his creed to his practice.
Providence!" Let him alone." Ye at flictions, say nothing to him of the vanity of the world. Let all his schemes be completely successful. Let his grounds bring forth plentifully. Let him have more than heart can wish.
Does the judge order a man to be scourged, who is going to be executed .'—Does the father correct the child that he has determined to disinherit?—Is the tree pruned and manured after it is ordered to be cut down, and the axe is even at the root?
Take a third view of this dreadful sentence —Consider The Importance Of The Being Who Thus Abandons. It would be much better if all your friends and neighbours; if all your fellow-creatures, on whom you depend for assistance in a thousand ways, were to league together, and resolve to have nothing to do with you—than for God to leave you, "in whom you live, and move, and have your being." Oh! to be abandoned by him in whose favour is life—to hear him say, As for the others, I will teach them, but I will not teach thee; I will sanctify them, but I will not sanctify thee—thee I disown!—Oh! if the God of mercy will have nothing to do with us, who will! If the God of patience cannot bear with us, who can?
While God is with us, we can spare other things. While passing through the water and through the fire, if he be with us we need tear no evil. Yea, under the most distressing revolutions in our own affairs, and in the world around us—it is enough, if we can sing with the Church, "The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge."
But what is every thing else without God! —how lamentable was the speech of Saul— "I am sore distressed, for the Philistines make war against me, and God is departed from me!" When the enemy is approaching; when the day of death draws nigh—and you have no God !—every creature to whom you call for assistance will reply, with the king to the woman, ',' If the Lord do not help thee, whence shall I help thee?" When he goes, away goes all our protection, and our blessedness, and our hope. Well therefore did he say of old—" Wo unto them when I depart from them!"
For, Finally, consider What Will Be The
CONSEQUENCE OF THIS DETERMINATION. It
will be a freedom to sin; it will be the removal of every hinderance in the way to perdition; and thus give the unhappy wretch an unchecked passage along the road to hell. When God dismisses a man, and resolves he shall have no more assistance from him—he is sure of being ensnared by error, enslaved by lust, and "led captive by the devil at his will," down to the regions of everlasting wo!
For what would be the consequence of saying to a blind man approaching a precipice —Let him alone? What would be the consequence of saying to a man asleep while the house is in flames—Let him alone? Their destruction. And so it is here. We are such poor insufficient creatures, that it is not necessary for God to do any thing—he has only to let us alone. It is not necessary for him to strike a blow—the disease is undermining our frame. We have taken poison, and all that is necessary to its killing us is not to counteract its malignity.
Such is the judgment here denounced. Let us conclude by remarking,
First, The justice of this doom. Why does he say, "Let him alone?"—Because "he is joined to idols." "My people would not hearken unto my voice; and Israel would none of me: so I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels." All the punishments he inflicts are deserved; and he never inflicts them without reluctance. "O that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! O that thou hadst hearkened unto my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea."—But may not God abandon those who have renounced him? Is he compelled to force his favours upon us? Has his patience no bounds? Is he not righteous, as well as gracious! Is there mercy with him that he may be feared? —or insulted?
Your condemnation entirely turns upon a principle that will at once justify him and silence you. "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life. Because I have called, and ye have refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my. reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of ray counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices."
Secondly. Let me call upon you to fear this judgment And surely some of you have reason to be alarmed. With some of you the Spirit of God has long been striving. You have had a pious education. You have heard the admonitions of friends. You have seen good examples. You have attended the preaching of the Gospel, and have sometimes been deeply affected, and sometimes even compelled to pray. And after all this you
turned again to folly; and have "donedespite unto the Spirit of grace."
Now you know what he has said. "He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." And you know what he has done. You know that, provoked by the continual rebellions of Israel, "he sware in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest" And you know the master of the feast, incensed by the ungrateful refusal of his kind invitations, gave his servants a new commission, and said, "none of the men that were bidden shall taste of my supper." And what if after all your disobedience and perverseness he should say this of you! What if remaining the same after all the methods employed for your conversion, he should say, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still!"—*' He is joined to idols: let him alone."
If you say you have no forebodings of thus the symptoms are so much the worse. Spiritual judgments are the most awful, because they are insensibly executed. It is a principal part of them to take away feeling; to lull us to sleep in the very lap that kills; to make us cry, Peace, peace, when destruction is coming upon us; to dispose us to embrace error easily; and to delude us so strongly as to believe a lie.
Thirdly. Perhaps some of you are saying, "I am afraid this is my doom already. My convictions seem to have been stifled. The serious impressions I once experienced are worn off— nothing seems to do me any good— I derive no advantage from the Sabbath—or the word."
Perhaps this is true. And if so, God forbid that I should say any thing to hinder or weaken your alarm. If any thing can save, it must begin with this reasonable and salutary terror.
But it may be also a groundless apprehension. And should this be the case, as the most safe are always the most anxious, 1 would observe—First, that this fear is a good sign that he has not yet said this. Secondly, that it will be a good means to keep him from eiier saying it Thirdly, to use the words of an old writer, it is a blessed proof that God does not let you alone, if you cannot let him alone; but continue to pray; and though discouraged by delays, " wait for him more than they that watch for the morning; I say, more than they that watch for the morning."
And if this be not your unhappy case, be thankful; and cheerfully acquiesce in hi dealings with you. Christians! he who has given you so many proofs of his care will never leave you nor forsake you. His eye is upon the righteous. His ear is open unto their cry. All his saints are in his hands. He will guide them with his counsel, and afterwards receive them to glory. Perhaps many things have been taken away—but