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them to plead for their vanities and leads | ward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is them to indulge in the very same practices, I one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the as far as they can safely do it-they will rea-heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; dily allow them their odd way of thinking, or whose praise is not of men, but of God. The their peculiar observances; yea, they may kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but even consent to go with them to hear their righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy favourite.preacher, if these formalists will go Ghost. The kingdom of God is not in word, with them in return to see their favourite but in power." actor. The real Christian may say to these And to draw towards a close-If such a nominal ones, as his Lord and Saviour did to subject as this was ever necessary, it is pecuthe Jews; “ The world cannot hate you; but liarly so in the present day, when hearing me it hateth, because I testify of it that the the gospel entails so little reproach, and the deeds thereof are evil."
profession of religion is so cheap, having beSecondly, Persons are sometimes induced come so common. Let me therefore beseech to take up the form of godliness through the you to examine yourselves by this solemn influence of their connexions. From some test; and to inquire, whether you have the of them they feel the influence of authority; power, as well as the form of godliness. It from some, the influence of friendship; from is a good evidence in your favour, if you are some, the influence of business. For with willing to come to the light; and can even many, “ gain is godliness;" and they assume address yourselves to God in the language of religion because they imagine they can suc-David: Search me, O God, and know my ceed better in the church than in the world. heart : try me, and know my thoughts: and This often decides the place of their hearing. see if there be any wicked way in me, and Some of them also pay for seats in several lead me in the way everlasting." places of worship-it makes them known - And be it remembered, that in a case of and is likely to increase customers.
such vast importance, and where the conseThough religion particularly and practiquences of deception are not to be repaired, cally considered be obnoxious to mankind, yet we cannot be too anxious to be right. It is viewed superficially and in the gross, it com- better to have a timorous conscience, than a monly obtains something like applause; and presumptuous one: and to be unnecessarily few would choose to have any thing to do distressed for awhile, and—be safe—than to with a person who avowed himself to be irre- enjoy a carnal confidence, and-perish for ligious in principle and practice. Many ever! therefore nicely determine the boundary of To induce you to seek after real godliness, safety; and without going so far as to give you would do well to reflect on “the exceedoffence, they will go far enough to procure ing great and precious promises,” which are respect. Hence, says Henry, they assume attached to it in the Scriptures of truth. If a form of godliness to take away their re- you have the life and power of religion, you proach, but not the power of it to take away will indeed be engaged in exercises and trials their sin."
| which the mere formalist escapes--but then Thirdly, They avail themselves of the form you will have privileges and hopes of which of godliness to preserve peace within. For he can never partake. He does not go far without something of religion, conscience enough to relish its enjoyments or amass its would rage and clamour; but by means of this, riches. But " for this shall every one that is it is amused and quieted; and this renders it godly pray unto thee, in a time when thou so extremely dangerous. For, engaged in a mayest be found : surely in the floods of great number of duties, he presumes on the good-waters they shall not come nigh unto hiin." ness of his state ; and feeling no fear, he“ The Lord hath set apart him that is godly makes no inquiry. The man is secure with for himself.” “Bodily exercise profiteth lilout being safe ; and while “poor towards tle: but godliness is profitable unto all things, God,” supposes himself to be “rich, and in- having promise of the life that now is and ol creased with goods, and to have need of no that which is to come.” For eternity-here thing."
is the assurance of deliverance from every But “ what is the hope of the formalist evil, the possession of all good, the vision and though he has gained ?" "And what does he the presence of their Lord and Saviour for gain? He may pass for religious in the ever. And for time—here is the certainty opinion of his fellow-creatures, and lull con- not of health, of property, of ease and friendscience to sleep-But does he obtain the ap- ship—but what is far better—the persuasion, probation of God? Can he possibly elude that “all things shall work together for good his discernment? “His eyes are as a flame to them that love God, to them that are the of fire,” which will pierce through every pre-called according to his purpose !" tension, and consume every disguise. No. “Look thou upon me, and be merciful “ He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; me, as thou usest to do unto those that lov neither is that circumcision, which is out-1 thy name !"
DISCOURSE XXXIII. | the derangement of one of which brings on
the dissolution of the whole the wonder is,
that we ever live a single day to an end! AUTUMN.
Accordingly many are carried to the grave
as soon as they are born. They open their We all do fade as a leaf !—Isaiah lxiv. 6.
eyes on a vale of tears; weep and withdraw. The inspired writers often send us to the Others grow in stature, become lovely in animal, and even to the vegetable worlds for form, engaging in manners, amiable in teminstruction: and it must be confessed, that per, and promising as to wisdom and virtue; they are wonderfully adapted to strike and to these live long enough to engage the affecadmonish us,
tions of their relatives, and then leave them The misfortune however is, that “ seeing mourning and “refusing to be comforted bemany things, we observe not.” The means cause they are not.” Others advance further, of instruction are plentifully dispensed, but a form connexions, and enter on their busy mind to use them is rarely found.
schemes_but “in that very day, their Yet such a mind it behoves us to cultivate. thoughts perish.” Sometimes wars, famines, And when the attention is awakened, and we pestilences, and earthquakes, receive a comare willing to learn, every thing becomes a mission to destroy. These may be compared teacher or a monitor. “The heavens declare to storms, which desolate a whole forest at the glory of God. All his works praise him." once, and cover the ground with foliage. The ravens encourage us to trust in him for When a leaf falls it drops irrecoverably. food; and the lilies for clothing. His voice It is otherwise with the tree: “ there is hope is heard in the thunder : he whispers also in of a tree if it be cut down that it will sprout the breeze: and even a falling leaf preaches again, and that the tender branch thereof a lesson to man.
will not cease. Though the root thereof wax From our windows, or in our walks, we old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in may now see the trees, shedding their ho the ground, yet, through the scent of water, nours.—Isaiah tells us that this is an emblem it will bud and bring forth boughs like a of ourselves“For we all do fade as a leaf.” plant." But the leaf has no second spring:
It is observable that he does not compare it can never be revived. And man is like it. life to a tree. An oak by slow degrees rises “Man dieth and wasteth away, yea, man to perfection, and long maintains its glory. giveth up the ghost and where is he !-Man For ages it defies the fury of the elements, (lieth down, and riseth not: till the heavens and at last, after long and repeated assaults, be no more, they shall not awake, nor be it gradually decays, or sullenly submitting to raised out of their sleep." Oh! could prayers the axe, sinks slowly and crashing upon the and tears bring him back, and rejoin him to ground. Many trees are much less solid and the living! But all is vain —And equally durable than the oak. But man is compared vain are all our wishes and our endeavours to none of them-his image is "a leaf." to prevent the doom! “O remember that
A leaf while it hangs on, adorns the my life is wind; mine eye shall no more see branches and looks beautiful; it is the shel-good. The eye of him that hath seen me ter of the fruit and the dress of the tree; it shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon waves to the wind and murmurs to the ear. me, and I am not. As the cloud is consumed. But how weak, how frail is it! By what a and vanisheth away; so he that goeth down slender bond does it retain its situation! How to the grave shall come up no more. He small a force is required to bring it down to shall return no more to his house, neither the ground! where it soon mixes with the shall his place know him any more." earth, and is no more to be distinguished But the main thing intended in the image, from it.
| is the short continuance of its being, and the A leaf does not always endure a whole still shorter duration of its vigour and verseason. It is exposed to a thousand disasters. dure. Be favourable, ye winds, and, ye beasts It is often crushed in its prime. Insects of the field, come not to devour-let the leaf gnaw it off; the beasts of the field may de- remain and flourish. How contracted the your it; winds may scatter it; or it may be measure of its existence—and of its glory! shaken down with the fruit. And, between When Jacob was asked how old he was, he the diseases and accidents to which human answered, " The days of the years of my pilnature is liable, few of the human race com- grimage are one hundred and thirty years : paratively attain old age. The Jews formerly few and full of evil have been the days of the reckoned up nine hundred and three diseases; years of my pilgrimage: and I have not ata but accidents are absolutely innumerable. A tained unto the days of the years of the life vapour may cause death: our houses may of my fathers, in the days of their pilgrimbury us in their ruins: our food may poison age." But if he fell short of the age of his us. When we consider the extreme delicacy ancestors, we come vastly short of his. That of the human frame, and the multiplicity of man is old. Ask him how many annual pefine and tender parts of which it is composed, Iriods of time he has passed through? “Three
score years and ten.” Ask him how life looks! It urges us towards it, and helps to prepare in review ?-"As a tale that is told; as a us for it. Since it is only a troublesome dream when one awaketh.” Ask him how voyage, who would desire its longer continuit passed away?-“ As a flood-swifter than a ance? Since all is vanity and vexation of weaver's shuttle.” Ask him where now are spirit here, are we not even compelled to the companions of his youth? How many seek a better, a heavenly country? Since will he reckon up, who have gone down to the world is our grand enemy, is it not well the grave, and have seen corruption and to find it rendered so unlovely and unseduchow few remain to be the associates of his ing? Now you have only a few days to live; hoary hairs! “Behold, thou hast made my you have no time to trifle, but must attend days as an hand's breadth, and my age is as to the things which belong to your peace, nothing before thee; verily, every man at his before they are hid from your eyes. best estate is altogether vanity."
This frail life too, in the Fourth place, is And how often does a leaf fade, sooner than continually guarded by a wise and tender it falls! And is it not so with man? If Providence. All our times are in his hand. spared, how soon does he begin to discover He careth for us. “A sparrow falleth not to infirmities! “The days of our years are the ground without our Heavenly Father: threescore years and ten; and if, by reason and the very hairs of our head are all numof strength, they be fourscore years, yet is bered.” their strength labour and sorrow;" labour in Let us add two additional reflections and the preserving, and sorrow in the possessing. conclude. And First, if life be like a fading The body decays; the head bows down; the leaf, let us regard it accordingly, beauty consumes away; the hands cannot Let it prevent despair. If life be short, thy perform their enterprise; "the grinders cease troubles cannot, O Christian, be long! because they are few, and those that look out Let us also repress fear. It is little the of the windows be darkened.”—The powers most powerful can do, and before they strike of the mind partake also of the declension. they may fall. “I, even I am he that comSir Isaac Newton, before his death, could not forteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest comprehend one of his own axioms! The be afraid of a man that shall die, and the son memory drops its treasures. The vigour of of man that shall be made as grass ?" fancy fails. Judgment is dethroned. “ Man Let it check envy. “Be not thou afraid at his best estate is altogether vanity." when one is made rich, when the glory of his
Such is the representation of human na house is increased : for when he dieth he shall ture. For this extends to all; whether old carry nothing away : his glory shall not deor young, poor or rich, despised or honourable, scend after him. Fret not thyself hecause foolish or wise, yea wicked or righteous- of evil doers, neither be thou envious against “ we all do fade as a leaf.” And who is not the workers of iniquity, for they shall soon be ready to say with David, “Wherefore hast cut down as the grass, and wither as the thou made all men in vain ?" But to enable us green herb.” to judge properly in this case, and to vindi- Let it moderate your attachments and decate the Divine perfections and providence- pendence. Make what use you can of a leaf, Let us remember,
but do not lean upon it for support; do not First, That this state of frailty and vanity hold your estate by it. Regard your present was not the original state of man; but the possessions and comforts as vain and vanishconsequence of transgression. God made ing; and detach your affections from things man upright and immortal; but “by one man below. “Wilt thou set thy heart on that sin entered into the world, and death by sin, which is not ?" Parents! view your chiland so death hath passed upon all men, be- dren as uncertain delights. Husbands! recause all have sinned."
member how easily the desires of your eyes And, Secondly, That it is not his only may be removed from you.-To-day we have state. There is another life to which the friends and relations, to-morrow we are alone present is introductory, and in connexion like a sparrow upon the house-top. with which it should always be considered. And oh ! bring it home to yourselves you The one is the way; the other is the end. are going as well as your comforts. Reflect The one is the seed time; the other is the upon your frailty—not only at a funeral, or harvest. The one is a state of probation; the under sickness, or in old age—but habitually other of retribution.
—and immediately. To what purpose is it Thirdly, The vanity and brevity of the to put the evil day far off in apprehension, present life, if wisely improved, is advantage- when it is so near in reality? “Boast not ous with regard to the future.
thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not It furnishes us with no inconsiderable proof what a day may bring forth. Go to now, ye of a world to come. Every thing in such a that say, to-day or to-morrow we will go into state as this being unanswerable to our facul- such a city, and continue there a year, and ties, our wants, and our desires; we are con- buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know strained to look out for another.
| not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour that appeareth gods; and played the harlot with many for a little time and then vanisheth away." lovers." Hence the calamities which befeil
Let me then ask you, How do matters them. But while these calamities were the stand with regard to another world? Are effects of sin, they were also the means of you born again ? Have you a title to heaven bringing them to a proper state of mind. or a meetness for it? The grand question is They are therefore considered eventually as -not " what shall I eat, or what shall I mercies; and are spoken of not in a way of drink, or wherewithal shall I be clothed ?"- threatening, but promise : “ Therefore, bebut " what must I do to be saved ?" You hold, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, should be principally concerned—not for to- and make a wall, that she shall not find her morrow-but for eternity. To-morrow may paths. And she shall follow after her lovers, never come; eternity will. May the Lord but she shall not overtake them; and she shall prepare us for it!—“So teach us to number seek them, but shall not find them: then our days that we may apply our hearts unto shall she say, I will go and return to my first wisdom."
| husband; for then was it better with me than Let us remember, Secondly, that all is not now." fading. “All flesh is grass, and all the But what is all this to us? Much every glory of man as the flower of grass. The way. “Whatsoever things were written grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth aforetime, were written for our learning; away; but the word of the Lord endureth for that we, through patience and comfort of the ever: and this is the word which, by the Scripture, might have hope.” God has a peoGospel, is preached unto you." -By means of ple for his name in all ages. And Christians this everlasting word, you are informed of a stand in the same relation to him now as SAVIOUR, who is the same yesterday, to-day, the Jews did of old. And are we better than and for ever- of durable riches-of bags they? In no wise. And were not God's which wax not old-of a crown of life-of dealings with them designed to be typical of "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, his dealings with us? They were: and in and that FADETH NOT AWAY."
reading their history, we may peruse our "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise be own. ing left us of entering into his rest, any of Let us then endeavour to explain and imyou should seem to come short of it."
prove the words as applicable to ourselves.
They do not indeed require much explana
tion. For when God says—“I will hedge DISCOURSE XXXIV.
up thy way with thorns," it is obvious that he means—I will perplex them, embarrass them;
pierce them through with many sorrows. THE DESIGN OF AFFLICTION.
There is another hedge which God raises for
his people, and of which we read in the Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way Scripture it is the hedge of PROTECTION. with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall
Thus, speaking of Israel as a vineyard, says not find her paths. And she shall follow af 1 God, “I will take away the hedge thereof;" ter her lovers, but she shall not overtake
thereby laying it open to the intrusion of them ; and she shall seek them, but shall not
beasts and travellers. And thus, when Satarr find them : then shall she say, I will go and
surveyed the condition of Job, he saw that he return to my first husband; for then was it
could not touch him without Divine permisbetter with me than now.—Hosea ii. 6, 7.
sion—" Hast not thou made an hedge about Tax language of Scripture is very figura- him, and about his house, and about all that tive. And herein lies much of its excellency | he hath, on every side? and utility. For since we derive our know But the hedge here spoken of is the hedge ledge through the medium of the senses, in of affliction, composed of some of those thorns no other way could spiritual truths so easily and briers which sin has so plentifully proand forcibly lay hold of the mind.
duced in this wilderness world. And the Nothing is more common in the prophecies metaphor is taken from a husbandman, who, than to express the relation between God and to keep his cattle in the pasture, and prevent the Jews of old by the alliance of marriage. their going astray, fences them in; and the He was considered as their husband. Hence sharper the hedge the better. Thus God rethey were laid under peculiar obligations to solves to make our rovings difficult. If we him; and hence their sins had the character will go astray, we must smart for it. “Now of violating the marriage contract.
what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to They were commanded to worship the drink the waters of Sihor ? or what hast thou Lord alone; and Him only were they to to do in the way of Assyria, to drink the waserve. But, alas ! “ they often declined from ters of the river? Thine own wickedness his ways, and hardened their heart from his shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall fear;" or, to use the language of the meta- reprove thee: know therefore and see that it phor: “They went a whoring after other I is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, and that my fear is ter her lovers, but she shall not overtake not in thee, saith the Lord God of hosts." them; and she shall seek them, but shall not
But he adds_“I will make a wall, that find them: then shall she say, I will go and she shall not find her paths." This is an- return to my first husband; for then was it other image to convey the same truth, only better with me than now." with this addition that if lighter afflictions From the passage thus briefly explained, fail of their end, God will employ heavier. let us glance at four things. The First reThey may be foolhardy enough to break minds us of OUR DEPRAVITY. The Second, through the thorns, and may go on though of the DIVINE GOODNESS AND CARE. The wounded and bleeding—but they shall not Third, of THE BENEFIT OF AFFLICTION. And get over the wall—I have stones as well as the Fourth, OF THE DIFFERENCE THERE IS brambles—I will present insuperable difficul- BETWEEN OUR ADHERING TO GOD, AND OUR ties. Yes, God can deprive us of liberty; he DEPARTING FROM HIM. can reduce our means; he can deprive us of I. We are reminded of OUR DEPRAVITY. health and property; he can take away the It appears in our proneness to go astray. desires of our eyes with a stroke; and easily ) There is in us an “evil heart of unbelief in and effectually stop us in all the ardour of departing from the living God." We transour schemes and enterprises.
fer to the creature those regards which are It shows us what a variety of troubles God due only to the Creator. We fear other has to dispose of; afflictions of all kinds and things more than God; we love other things of all degrees; suited to our natural dispo- more than God. We make friends, and fame, sition and our moral perverseness. It shows and fortune, our dependence; and withdraw us also our obstinacy; that God is compelled our hope and confidence from Him who is to deal with us as with brutes, who are not the only portion of his people. Thus they to be governed by reason and ingenuous become our idols. motives, but require blows and restraints. And these are our lovers, who profess to So foolish are we and ignorant, so much are give us “our bread and our water, our wool we like a beast before him, that we must be and our flax, our oil and our drink." These hedged in with thorns, and confined in with are the rivals of the Supreme Being; and, a wall.
alas! they are too often successful, and draw At length, wearied to find their paths, and away our hearts from God. Our backslidunable to overtake their lovers, they are con- ings are many. For let us not deceive our. vinced of their folly, take shame to them- selves. Let us not judge of our declensions selves, and resolve to go back. To this they only by gross acts, but by the state of our are excited not only by present distress, but minds. It is indeed a mercy if we have been by former pleasure. They remember the preserved from those scandalous falls which happiness they once enjoyed in the service would disgrace our profession. But where of God--and say, " What have I any more to none of these vices have appeared in the life, do with idols ? I will go and return to my there have been many deviations from God first husband; for then was it better with me in our thoughts, and affections, and pursuits. than now."
By this therefore we should try ourselves. Thus it was with the prodigal. He had For in proportion as we “love the world, the destroyed his reputation, and wasted his sub-love of the Father is not in us." And in the stance among harlots and in riotous living ; same degree that we “make flesh our arm, he had reduced himself to the most abject our heart will always depart from the Lord." condition, and lived on the husks which the II. But our depravity is not more observswine did eat, and no man gave unto him. able than THE DIVINE GOODNESS AND CARE. One day-a thought of home struck him—he For while we are thus perpetually roving instantly formed a comparison between his from him—what does he ? Does he destroy present and his former circumstances—he us? No. Does he abandon us to ourselves, recollected the honour that attended him be- saying, They are joined to idols; let them fore his wanderings; the plenty that crowned alone? No-but he employs means, various his father's board; how much was always means to hinder and to reclaim us. “I will taken away from the table, yea, how much hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a even the servants left; -and sighed and wall, that she shall not find her paths; and said “How many hired servants of my fa- she shall follow after her lovers, and shall ther's have bread enough and to spare-and not overtake them: and she shall seek them, I perish with hunger!-I will arise and go but shall not find them.” to my father, and will say unto him, Father, And why does he make use of all these I have sinned against heaven and before thee, various expedients? Is it because he stands and am no more worthy to be called thy son; in need of us ?-no—but because we stand make me as one of thy hired servants"- in need of him, and can do nothing without “Therefore, behold, I will hedge up thy way his counsels and his comforts—because he is with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall very pitiful and of tender mercy--because he not find her paths. And she shall follow af- | is concerned for our everlasting welfare