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is left, should GoD ever exact the same trials, unless we greatly alter for the better, or there should prove some secret charm in persecution, which we know not of ;-it is much to be doubted, if the Son of man should make this proof of this generation, whether there would be found faith upon the earth.
As this argument may convince us, so let it shame us into virtue, that the admirable examples of those holy men may not be left us, or commemorated by us to no end ;————but rather that they may answer the pious purpose of their institution, to conform our lives to theirs ;—that with them we may be partakers of a glorious inheritance, through JESUS CHRIST our LORD. 4
1 JOHN v. 3.
And his commandments are not grievous.
‚—they are not grievous, my dear auditors.-Amongst the many prejudices which, at one time or other, have been conceived against our holy religion, there is scarce any one which has done more dishonor to christianity, or which has been more opposite to the spirit of the gospel, than this, in express contradiction to the words of the text, "That the commandments of Gon "are grievous ;"that the way which leads to life is not only strait-for that, our SAVIOUR tells us, and that with much tribulation we shall seek it; but that christians are bound to make the worst of it, and tread it barefoot upon thorns and briars, if ever they expect to arrive happily at their journey's end ;—and, in course, during this disastrous pilgrimage, it is our duty so to renounce the world, and abstract ourselves from it, as neither to interfere with its interests, or taste any of the pleasures, or any of the enjoyments of this life.
Nor has this been confined merely to speculation, but has frequently been extended to practice, as is plain, not only from the lives of many legendary saints and hermits,-whose chief commendation seems to have been, "That they fled unnaturally from all commerce with their fellowcreatures, and then mortified, and piouslyhalf-starved themselves to death ;"-but likewise from the many austere and fantastic orders which we see in the Romish church, which have all owed their origin and establishment to the same idle and extravagant opinion.
Nor is it to be doubted, but the affectation of something like it in our methodists, when they descant upon the necessity of alienating themselves from the world, and selling all that they have,is not to be ascribed to the same mistaken enthusiastic principle, which would cast so black a shade upon religion, as if the kind author of it had created us on purpose to go mourning, all our lives long, in sackcloth and ashes, and sent us into the world as so many saint-errants, in quest ●f adventures full of sorrow and affliction.
Strange force of enthusiasm!—and yet not altogether unaccountable. For, what opinion was there ever so odd, or action so extravagant, which has not, at one time or other, been produced by ignorance, conceit,-melancholy,a mixture of devotion, with an ill concurrence of air and diet, operating together in the same person,When the minds of men happen to be thus unfortunately prepared, whatever groundless doctrine rises up, and settles itself strongly upon their fancies, has generally the ill luck to be interpreted as an illumination from the spirit of GoD, and whatever strange action they find in themselves a strong inclination to do,that impulse is concluded to be a call from heaven; and consequently, that they cannot err in executing it.
If this, or some such account, was not to be admitted, how is it possible to be conceived, that Christianity, which breathed out nothing but peace and comfort to mankind, which professedly took off the severities of the Jewish law, and was given us in the spirit of meekness, to ease our shoulders of a burden which was too heavy for us; -that this religion, so kindly calculated for the ease and tranquillity of man, which enjoins nothing but what is suitable to his nature, should be so misunderstood;-or that it should ever be supposed, that he who is infinitely happy, could en
vy us our enjoyments;-or that a Being infinitely kind, would grudge a mournful passenger a little rest and refreshment, to support his spirits through a weary pilgrimage ;-or that he should call him to an account hereafter, because, in his way, he had hastily snatched at some fugacious and innocent pleasures, till he was suffered to take up his final repose ?-This is no improbable account; and the many invitations we find in scripture, to a grateful enjoyment of the blessings and advantages of life, make it evident. The apostle tells us in the text,-that God's commandments are not grievous. He has pleasure in the prosperity of his people, and wills not that they should turn tyrants and executioners upon their minds or bodies, and inflict pains and penalties on them to no end or purpose -That he has proposed peace and plenty, joy and victory, as the encouragement and portion of his servants; thereby instructing us, that our virtue is not necessarily endangered by the fruition of outward things; but that temporal blessings and advantages, instead of extinguishing, more naturally kindle our love and gratitude to Gor, before whom it is noway inconsistent both to worship and rejoice.
If this was not so, why, you will say, does GOD seem to have made such provision for our happiness? Why has he given us so many powers and faculties for enjoyment, and adapted so many objects to gratify and entertain them? Some of which he has created so fair,--with such wonderful beauty, and has formed them so exquisitely for this end, that they have power, for a time to charm away the sense of pain,chear up the dejected heart under poverty and sickness, and make it go and remember its miseries no more. Can all this, you will say, be reconciled to God's wisdom, which does nothing in vain? or can it be accounted for on any
other supposition, but that the Author of our being, who has given us all things richly to enjoy, wiils us a comfortable existence even here, and seems, moreover, so evidently to have ordered things, with a view to this, that the ways which lead to our future happiness, when rightly understood, he has made to be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths peace?
From this representation of things, we are led to this demonstrative truth, then-That God never intended to debar man of pleasure, under certain limitations.
Travellers on a business of the last and most important concern, may be allowed to please their eyes with the natural and artificial beauties of the country they are passing thro', without reproach of forgetting the main errand they were sent upon; and if they are not led out of their road by variety of prospects, edifices and ruins, would it not be a senseless piece of severity, to shut their eyes against such gratifications? For who has required such service at their hands ?
The humoring of certain appetites, where morality is not concerned, seems to be the means by which the Author of nature intended to sweeten this journey of life, and bear us up under the mamy shocks and hard jostlings, which we are sure to meet with in our way. And a man might, with as much reason, muffle up himself against sunshine and fair weather, and at other times expose himself naked to the inclemencies of cold and rain, as debar himself of the innocent delights of his nature, for affected reserve and melancholy.
It is true, on the other hand, our passions are so apt to grow upon us by indulgence, and become exorbitant if they are not kept under exact discipline, that by way of caution and prevention, it were better, at certain times, to affect some degree of needless reserve, than hazard any ill conse quences from the other extreme.