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was his meditation day and night; and he frequently mentions the pleasure he took in thinking of God in the night watches, whenever he could not sleep. Till this be our case, we cannot be said to have attained a proper habitual devotion. Now, such is the unavoidable influence of the world around us, that this state of mind is not to be attained without many efforts, or a course of discipline, in which the mind must be at first constrained to look off from the things of time to those of eternity. But repeated acts will at length beget any habit. And when, by this means, we shall come habitually to set our affections on things above, where Christ is at the right hand of God, our most pleasing meditations, the subjects to which our minds will naturally revert when no other shall be particularly pressing for attention, will be those which relate to religion. Something concerning God, or concerning Christ and the gospel, will first present themselves, and be uppermost in our thoughts; and whenever they are diverted to other objects (which is unavoidably the case in the usual business and commerce of the world,) they will recur with double strength and pleasure. It will be like the sight of a friend after a short absence. Indeed, we make quicker advances in the divine life, as it may properly be called, by means of these intervals, in which the mind is occupied by the cares, or even the innocent pleasures, of life, than when we endeavour always to preserve a frame of direct devotion : for then, like the perpetual presence of the nearest friend, it would become dull and insipid. That generous, invigorating ardor, which is experienced by men of true piety, who mix with the world and exert themselves to be useful in it, is unknown to the professed devotee, who abstracts himself from the world, in order, as he thinks, to give himself wholly to God. This frame of fervent devotion advances like the tide in the ocean, with intervals of recess between each flow. In this, I am confident, that I speak to the experience of all who cultivate a habit of devotion, and who attend to their own feelings.
THE NOMINAL CHRISTIAN.
THE real difference between a merely nominal believer and an unbeliever is very small, and of little consequence, compared to the difference between the merely nominal and the real Christian. What are the generality of Christians, in what are called Christian countries? They are, in fact, persons who mind nothing but their business, or their pleasure, without giving any attention to the principles of Christianity at all. It is by no means the subject of their daily thoughts, it supplies no motives to their actions, it contributes nothing to moderate their joys, or to alleviate their sorrows. It neither enables them to bear the troubles of life, nor does it give them any solid hope in death. Whereas the real Christian, as the apostle says, “rejoices as though he rejoiced not and weeps as though he wept not, because the fashion of this world passeth away,” and the Lord is at hand. He is ever “looking to that blessed hope, even the glorious appearing of the great God, and his Saviour Jesus Christ; ” and has peace and joy in believing.
Christianity is less to be considered as a system of opinions, than a rule of life. But of what signification is a rule, if it be not complied with ? All the doctrines of Christianity have for their object Christian morals, which are no other than the well-known duties of life; and the advantage we derive from this religion is, that the principles of it assist us in maintaining that steady regard to the providence and moral government of God, and to a future state, which facilitates and ensures the practice of those duties; inspiring greater piety towards God, greater benevolence to man, and that heavenly mindedness which raises the heart and affections above those mean and low pursuits which are the source of almost all vices. But Christian principles not reflected upon or attended to, cannot be accompanied with any advantage of this kind; and better, surely, were it to make no profession of any principles, than to live without a due regard to them. Better, therefore, were it for any person to be an unbeliever in Christianity, than to be a Christian, and live as if he had not been one. He deprives himself of all apology or excuse for his bad conduct. And it would, I fear, be happy for thousands of professing Christians, if they had been born and lived among heathens.
We cannot too much impress upon our minds, that religion of any kind is only a mean to a certain end, and that this end is good conduct in life. Consequently, if this end be not attained, we not only lose the advantage of the means, or instrument, of which we were possessed, but are chargeable with the guilt of such neglect, are guilty of an ungrateful contempt of the means that were afforded us for the greatest and best of purposes; and can we expect that this will go unpunished 7
THE CHRISTIAN IN THE WORLD.
CHRISTIANITY does not operate as a charm. The use of it does not resemble that of a badge, or a certificate, to entitle a man to any privilege. It is of no use but so far as it enters into the sentiments, contributes to form the habits, and directs the conduct of men; and to do this, it must really occupy the mind, and engage its closest attention : so that the maxims of it may instantly occur the moment that they are called for ; and therefore in whatever it be that the true Christian and the mere man of the world really differ, the difference could not fail to appear. If there was any gratification or pursuit, that did not suit the Christian character, though others might indulge in it without scruple, and despise all who did not; the true Christian would be unmoved by such examples, or such ridicule. His habitual fear of God, and his respect for the commands of Christ, would at all times render him superior to any such influence. Whatever his Christian principles called him to do, or to suffer, he would be at all times ready to obey the call.
For any principles to have their practical influence, they must at least be familiar to the mind, and this they cannot be unless they be voluntarily cherished there, and be dwelt upon with pleasure, when other objects do not necessarily obtrude themselves. Consider, then, how many objects are perpetually occupying the minds of men in the present state of things in the Christian world, and how forcible their hold is upon them, and consequently, how difficult it must be to
prevent their all-prevailing influence, to the exclusion of that of Christianity.
The age in which we live, more than any that have preceded it, may be said to be the age of trade and commerce. Great wealth is chiefly to be acquired by this means. It is, at least, the most expeditious way of acquiring a fortune, with any regard to the principles of honor and honesty. But to succeed to any great extent in mercantile business of any kind, especially now that such numbers of active and sensible men are engaged in the same, a man must give almost his whole attention to it, so that there will be little room for any thing else to occupy his mind. If he do not literally, in the language of Scripture “rise up early,” and “sit up late,” it will occupy his thoughts when his head is upon his pillow. His anxiety will often keep him awake. Even at that season of rest he will be considering whether it will be prudent to make this or that purchase, whether this or that man may be safely trusted, whether there will not be too much hazard in this or that undertaking, and a thousand things of this nature.
If such a person's business allow him any leisure he is fatigued, and wants amusement, and cannot bear any thing that makes him serious. He therefore engages in parties of pleasure, and various entertainments, that, even more than business, exclude all thoughts of religion. And in this course of alternate business and mere amusement or feasting, do many men of business proceed day after day, and year after year, till Christianity is as foreign to their thought as if they had been heathens.
If the man of business have any turn for reading, and that not for mere amusement, it is history, or politics, something relating to the topics of the day, but not the Bible that he reads. To this, if he have not read at school, many a man of business is an utter stranger; and though in this book, God himself speaks to men, concerning their most important interests, their duties here, and their expectations hereafter, they will not listen even to their Maker. On Sundays, which the laws of most Christian countries prevent men from giving to business, many never go to any place of Christian