Imágenes de páginas

college. He did so, in a manner utterly contrary to all human probability. I was elected fellow of a college, where I knew not one person. I foresaw, abundance of people would come to see me, either out of friendship, civility, or curiosity; and that I should have offers of acquaintance, new and old : but I had now fixed my plan. Entering now, as it were, into a new world, I resolved to have no acquaintance by chance, but by choice; and to choose such only, as I had reason to believe would help me on my way to heaven. In consequence of this, I narrowly observed the temper and behaviour of all that visited me. I saw no reason to think that the greater part of these truly loved or feared God. Such acquaintance, therefore, I did not choose: I could not expect they would do me any good. Therefore, when any of these came to see me, I behaved as courteously as I could. But to the question, "When will you come to see me?" I returned no answer. When they had come a few times, and found I still declined returning the visit, I saw them no more. And I bless God, this has been my invariable rule for about threescore years. I knew many reflections would follow; but that did not move me; as I knew full well, it was my calling to go “through evil report and good report.”

24. I earnestly advise all of you who resolve to be, not almost, but altogether Christians, to adopt the same plan; however contrary it may be to flesh and blood. Narrowly observe, which of those that fall in your way, are like minded with yourself: who among them have you reason to believe fears God and works righteousness ? Set them down as worthy of your acquaintance: gladly and freely converse with them at all opportunities. As to all who do not answer that character, gently and quietly let them drop. However good natured and sensible they may be, they will do you no real service. Nay, if they did not lead your into outward sin, yet they would be a continual clog to your soul, and would hinder your running with vigour and cheerfulness the race that is set before you. And if any of your friends, that did once run well, “turn back from the holy commandment once delivered to them;" first use every method that prudence can suggest, to bring them again into the good way. But if you cannot prevail, let them go; only still commending them unto God in prayer. Drop all familiar intercourse with them, and save your own soul.

25. I advise you, fourthly, walk cireumspectly with regard to your relations. With your parents, whether religious or not, you must certainly converse, if they desire it; and with your brothers and sisters; more especially, if they want your service. I do not know that you are under any such obligation, with respect to your more distant relations. Courtesy, indeed, and natural affection may require that you should visit them sometimes. But if they neither know nor seek God, it should certainly be as seldom as possible. And when you are with them, you should not stay a day longer than decency requires. Again : Whichsoever of them you are with at any time, remember that solemn caution of the apostle, “ Let no corrupt communication (conversation] come out of your mouth : but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” You have no authority to vary from this rule; otherwise, you "grieve the Holy Spirit of God.” And if you keep closely to it, those who have no religion will soon dispense with your company.

26. Thus it is that those who fear or love God should "

come out from among all” that do not fear him. Thus in a plain scriptural sense, you should be separate” from them; from all unnecessary intercourse with them. Yea, “ Touch not,” saith the Lord, “the unclean thing," or person, any farther than necessity requires; "and I will receive you" into the household of God. And I will be unto you a Father ;' will embrace you with paternal affection; "and ye shall be unto me sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." The promise is express to all that renounce the company of ungodly men; provided their spirit and conversation are, in other respects, also suitable to their duty. God does here absolutely engage to give them all the blessings he has prepared for his beloved children, both in time and eternity. Let all those, therefore, who have any regard for the favour and the blessings of God, first, beware, how they contract any acquaintance, or form any connection with ungodly men; any farther than necessary business, or some other providential call requires : and, secondly, with all possible speed, all that the nature of the thing will admit, break off all such acquaintance already contracted, and all such connections already formed. Let no pleasure resulting from such acquaintance, no gain found or expected from such connections, be of any consideration, when laid in the balance against a clear, positive command of God. In such a case, "pluck out the right eye;" tear away the most pleasing acquaintance; - and cast it from thee :” give up all thought, all design of seeking it again. “Cut off the right hand;" absolutely renounce the most profitable connection; " and cast it from thee.” “It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye,” or one hand, “than having two, to be cast into hell fire.”

SERMON LXXXVII.-On Temptation.

* There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man : And God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able ; but will with the temptation also niake a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it," 1 Cor. x, 13.

1. In the foregoing part of the chapter, the apostle has been reciting, on the one hand, the unparalleled mercies of God to the Israelites; and, on the other, the unparalleled ingratitude of that disobedient and gainsaying people. And all these things, as the apostle observes, " were written for our ensample;" that we might take warning from them, so as to avoid their grievous sins, and escape that terrible punishment. He then adds that solemn and important caution : "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.”

2. But if we observe these words attentively, will there not appear a considerable difficulty in them? “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” If a man only thinks he stands, he is in no danger of falling. It is not possible that any one should fall, if he only thinks he stands. The same difficulty occurs, according to our translation, in those well known words of our Lord; (the importance of which we may easily learn from their being repeated in the gospel no less than eight times;) “ To him that hath shall be given ; but from

him that hath not, shall be taken away even what he seemeth to have." “That which he seemeth to have !Nay, if he only seems to have it, it is impossible it should be taken away. None can take away from another what he only seems to have. What a man only seems to have, he cannot possibly lose. This difficulty, may, at first, appear impossible to be surmounted. It is really so: it cannot be surmounted, if the common translation be allowed. But if we observe the proper meaning of the original word, the difficulty vanishes away. It may be allowed that the word doxei does (sometimes at least, in some authors) mean no more than to seem. But I much doubt whether it ever bears that meaning, in any part of the inspired writings. By a careful consideration of every text in the New Testament, wherein this word occurs, I am fully convinced, that it no where lessens, but every where strengthens the sense of the word to which it is annexed. Accordingly o doxal exsiv, does not mean, what he seems to have; but on the contrary, what he assuredly hath. And so o doxwv ssavas, not he that seemeth to stand, or he that thinketh he standeth, but he that assuredly stāndeth : he who standeth so fast, that he does not appear to be in any danger of falling : he that saith, like David, " I shall never be moved: thou, Lord, hast made my hill so strong." Yet at that very time thus saith the Lord, “Be not high minded, but fear. Else shalt thou be cut off :' else shalt thou also be moved from thy steadfastness. The strength which thou assuredly hast shall be taken away. As firmly as thou didst really stand, thou wilt fall into sin, if not into hell.

3. But lest any should be discouraged by the consideration of those who once ran well, and were afterwards overcome by temptation ; lest the fearful of heart should be utterly cast down, supposing it impossible for them to stand; the apostle subjoins to that serious exhortation, these comfortable words: “There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”'

I. 1. Let us begin with the observation which ushers in this comfortable promise : There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man.” Our translators seem to have been sensible that this expression, common to man, does by no means reach the force of the original word. Hence they substitute another in the margin, moderate. But this seems to be less significant than the other, and farther from the meaning of it. Indeed it is not easy to find any word in the English tongue, which answers the word av&gwrtivos. I believe the sense of it can only be expressed by some such circumlocution as this: “Such as is suited to the nature and circumstances of man; such as every man may reasonably expect, if he considers the nature of his body and his soul, and his situation in the present world.” If we duly consider these, we shall not be surprised at any temptation that hath befallen us : seeing it is no other than such a creature, in such a situation, has all reason to expect.

2. Consider, first, the nature of that body with which your soul is connected. How many are the evils which it is every day, every hour, liable to! Weakness, sickness, and disorders of a thousand kinds, are its natural attendants. Consider the inconceivably minute fibres, threads, abundantly finer than hair, (called from thence capillary vessels,) whereof every part of it is composed; consider the innumerable multitude of equally fine pipes and strainers, all filled with circulating juice! And will not the breach of a few of these fibres, or the obstruction of a few of these tubes, particularly in the brain, or heart, or lungs, destroy our ease, health, strength, if not life itself? Now if we observe that all pain implies temptation, how numberless must the temptations be, which will beset every man, more or less, sooner or later, while he dwells in this corruptible body!

3. Consider, secondly, the present state of the soul, as long as it inhabits the house of clay. I do not mean, in its unregenerate state; while it lies in darkness and the shadow of death; under the dominion of the prince of darkness, without hope, and without God in the world : no: look upon men who are raised above that deplorable state. See those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Yet still how weak is their understanding ! How limited its extent ! How confused, how inaccurate are our apprehensions, of even the things that are around about us! How liable are the wisest of men to mistake!-To form false judgments.—To take falsehood for truth, and truth for falsehood.-Evil for good, and good for evil. What starts, what wanderings of imagination, are we continually subject to! And how many are the temptations which we have to expect, even from these innocent infirmities!

-4. Consider, thirdly, what is the present situation of even those that fear God. They dwell in the ruins of a disordered world, among men that know not God, that care not for him, and whose heart is fully set in them to do evil. How many are forced to cry out, “Wo is me, that I am constrained to dwell with Mesech: to have my habitations among the tents of Kedar !” among the enemies of God and man. How immensely out-numbered are those that would do well, by them that neither fear God, nor regard man! And how striking is Cowley's observation : “If a man that was armed cap-a-pie, was closed in by à thousand naked Indians, their number would give them such advantage over him, that it would be scarce possible for him to escape. What hope then would there be for a naked, unarmed man to escape, who was surrounded by a thousand armed men !" Now this is the case of every good man. He is not armed either with force or fraud, and is turned out naked as he is, among thousands that are armed with the whole armour of Satan, and provided with all the weapons which the prince of this world can supply out of the armoury of hell

. If then he is not destroyed, yet how must a good man be tempted in the midst of this evil world!

5. But is it only from wicked men that temptations arise to them that fear God? It is very natural to imagine this: and almost every one thinks so. Hence how many of us have said in our hearts. “Oh! if my lot were but cast among good men, among those that loved or even feared God, I should be free from all these temptations.” Perhaps you would : probably you would not find the same sort of temptations which you have now to encounter. But you would surely meet with temptations of some other kind, which you would find equally hard to bear. For even good men, in general, though sin has not dominion over them, yet are not freed from the remains of it. They have still the remains of an evil heart, ever prone to“ depart from the living God." They have the seeds of pride, of anger, of foolish desire; indeed, of

We must not,

every unholy temper. And any of these, if they do not continually watch and pray, may, and naturally will, spring up, and trouble not themselves only, but all that are round about them. therefore, depend upon finding no temptation, from those that fear, yea, in a measure, love God. Much less must we be surprised, if some of those who once loved God in sincerity, should lay greater temptations in our way than many of those that never knew him.

6. “But can we expect to find any temptation from those that are perfected in love ?This is an important question, and deserves a particular consideration. I answer, first, you may find every kind of temptation, from those who suppose they are perfected, when indeed they are not : and so you may, secondly, from those who once really were so, but are now moved from their steadfastness. And if

you are not aware of this, if you think they are still what they were once, the temptation will be harder to bear. Nay, thirdly, even those who “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free ;" who are now really perfect in love; may still be an occasion of temptation to you: for they are still encompassed with infirmities. They may be dull of apprehension ; they may have a natural heedlessness, or a treacherous memory; they may have too lively an imagination : and any of these may cause little improprieties, either in speech or behaviour, which, though not sinful in themselves, may try all the grace you have: especially if you impute to perverseness of will, (as it is very natural to do,) what is really owing to defect of memory, or weakness of understanding ; if these appear to you to be voluntary mistakes, which are really involuntary. So proper was the answer which a saint of God (now in Abraham's bosom) gave me some years ago, when I said, “ Jenny, surely now your mistress and you can neither of you be a trial to the other, as God has saved you both from sin :'' “Oh sir," said she, “ if we are saved from sin, we still have infirmities enough to try all the grace that God has given us."

7. But besides evil men, do not evil spirits also continually surround us on every side? Do not Satan and his angels continually go about, seeking whom they may devour? Who is out of me reach of their malice and subtilty? Not the wisest or the best of the children of men. “The servant is not above his Mester.” If then they tempted him, will they not tempt us also ? Yea, it may be, should God see good to permit, more or less, to the end of our lives.

“No temptation," therefore, “ hath taken us," which we had not reason to expect, either from our body or soul, either from evil spirits or evil men; yea, or even from good men, tił{ our spirits return to God that gave them.

II. 1. Meantime what a comfort it is to know, with the utmost certainty, that “God is faithful, who will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able.” He knoweth what our ability is, and cannot be mistaken. “ He knoweth (precisely) whereof we are made: he remembereth that we are but dust.” And he will suffer no temptation to befall us, but such as is proportioned to our strength. Not only his justice requires this, which could not punish us for not resisting any temptation, if it were so disproportioned to our strength, that it was impossible for us to resist it; not only his mercy, that tender mercy which is over us, as well as over all his works ;—but, above all, his faithfulness : seeing all his words are faithful and true; and the whole

« AnteriorContinuar »