« VorigeDoorgaan »
add, why are you engaged in ways of life that are quite contrary to them. You want to be rich and great; is it that riches and greatness may make you more meek and humble, and heavenly-minded? Do you aspire after the distinctions of honour, that you may more truly feel the misery and meanness of your nature, and be made more lowly in your own eyes? Do you plunge yourself into worldly cares, let your passions fix upou variety of objects, that you may love God with all your heart, and raise your affections to things above? You acknowledge humility to be essential to salvation, you make it the chief care of your life to run away from it, to raise yourself in the show and figure of the world? Is not this fighting of Pyrrhus's battles? Nay, is it not a much more egregious folly? For you own, that you cannot be saved without true humility, a real lowliness of temper, and yet are doing all you can to keep it out of your heart. What is there in the conduct of the maddest hero that can equal this folly ?
Suppose that strict sobriety was the sole end of man, the necessary condition of happiness, what would you think of those people who, knowing and believing this to be true, should yet spend their time in getting quantities of all sorts of the stronga est liquors ? What would you think if you saw them constantly enlarging their cellars, filling every room with drams, and contending who should have the largest quantities of the strongest liquors ? Now this is the folly and madness of the lives of Christians; they are as wise and reasonable, as they are who are always providing strong liquors in order to be strictly sober. For all the enjoyments of human life, which Christians so aspire after, whether of riches, greatness, honours, and pleasures, are as much the dangers and temptations of a Christian, as strong and pleasant liquors are the dangers and temptations of a man that is to drink only water, Now if you was to ask such a man, why he is coiitinually increasing his stock of liquors, when he is to abstain from them all, and only drink water; he can give you as good a reason as those Christians who spare no pains to acquire riches, greatness, and pleasures, at the same time that their salvation depends upon their renouncing them all, upon their heavenlywindedness, great humility, and constant self-denial.
But it may be, you are not devoted to these things; you have a greater soul than to be taken with riches, equipage, or the pageantry of state; you are deeply engaged in learning and sciences.
You, it may be, are squaring the circle, or settling the distances of the stars, or busy in the study of exotic plants.
You, it may be, are comparing the ancient languages, have made deep discoveries in the change of letters, and perhaps know how to write an inscription in as obscure characters as if you had lived above two thousand years ago. Or, perhaps, you are meditating upon the Heathen theology, collecting the history of their gods and goddesses; or you are scanning some ancient Greek or Roman poet, and making an exact collection of their scattered remains, scraps of sentences, and broken words.
You are not exposing your life in the field like a mad Alexander or Cæsar; but you are again and again fighting over all their battles in your study; you are collecting the names of their generals, the number of their troops, the manner of their arms, and can give the world a more exact account of the times, places, and circumstances of their battles, than has yet been seen.
You will perhaps ask, whether this be not a very commendable enquiry? An excellent use of our time and parts? Whether people may not be very reasonably exhorted to these kind of studies? It may be answered, that all enquiries (however learned they are reckoned) which do not improve
the mind in some useful knowledge, that do not make us wise in religious wisdom, are to be reckoned amongst our greatest vanities and follies. All speculations that will not stand this trial are to be looked upon as the wanderings and impertinencies of a disordered understanding.
It is strange want of thought to imagine that an enquiry is ever the better, because it is taken up in Greek and Latin. Why is it not as wise and reasonable for a scholar to dwell in the kitchen, and converse with cooks, as to go into his study to meditate upon the Roman art of cookery, and learn their variety of sauces.
A grave doctor in divinity would perhaps think his time very ill employed, that he was acting below his character if he was to be an amanuensis to some modern poet. Why then does he think it suitable with the weight of his calling to have been a drudge to some antient poet, counting his syllables for several years, only to help the world to read what some irreligious, wanton, or epicurean poet has wrote.
It is certainly a much more reasonable employment to be making clothes, than to spend one's time in reading or writing volumes upon the Grecian or Roman garments.
If you can show me a learning that makes man truly sensible of his duty, that fills the mind with true light, that reforms the heart, that disposes it right towards God, that makes us more reasonable in all our actions, that inspires us with fortitude, humility, devotion, and contempt of the world, that gives us right notions of the greatness of religion, the sanctity of morality, the littleness of every thing but God, the vanity of our passions, and the misery and corruption of our nature; I will
myself an advocate for such learning. But to think that time is well employed because it is spent in such speculations as the vulgar cannot reach, or because they are fetched from antiquity, or found in Greek or Latin, is a folly that may be called as great as any in human life.
They who think that these enquiries are consistent with a heart entirely devoted to God, have not enough considered human nature; they would do: well to consult our Saviour's rebuke of Martha. She did not seem to have wandered far from her proper business; she was not busy in the history of housewifry, or enquiring into the original of the distaff; she was only taken up with her present affairs, and cumbered about much serving: but our blessed Saviour said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful.
Now if scholars and divines can show that they only apply to such studies as are serviceable to the one thing needful; if they are busy in a philosophy and learning that has a necessary connexion with the devotion of the heart to God; such learning becomes the followers of Christ. But if they trifle in Greek and Latin, and only assist other people to follow them in the same impertinence, such learning may be reckoned, amongst the corruptions of the age. For all the arguments against pride, covetousness, and vanity, are as good arguments against such learning; it being the same irreligion to be devoted to any false learning, as to be devoted to any other false good.
A satisfaction in any vain ornaments of the body, whether of clothes or paint, is no greater a mistake than a satisfaction in the vain accomplishments of the mind.
A man that is eager and laborious in the search and study of that which does him no good, is the same poor little soul as the miser that is happy in his bags that are laid by ia dust. A ridiculous application of our money, time, and understanding, is the same fault, whether it be found amongst the
finery of fops, the boards of misers, or the trinkets of virtuosos. It is the same false turn of mind, the same mistake of the use of things, the sanie ignorance of the state of man, and the same oflence against religion.
When we see a man brooding over bags of wealth, and labouring to die rich, we do not only accuse him of a poor littleness of mind, but we charge him with great guilt, we do not allow such a one to be in a state of religion. Let us therefore suppose, that this covetous man was, on a sudden, changed into another temper, that he was grown polite and curious, that he was fond and eager after the most useless things, if they were but ancient or scarce; let us suppose that he is now as greedy of original paintings as he was before of money; that he will give more for a dog's head, or a snuff of a candle by a good hand, than ever he gave in charity all his life; is he a wiser man, or a better Christian, than he was before? Has he more overcome the world, or is he more devoted to God, than when his soul was locked up with his money? Alas! his heart is in the same false satisfaction, he is in the same state of ignorance, is as far from the true good, as much separated from God, as he whose soul is cleaving to the dust; he lives in the same vanity, and must die in the same misery, as he that lives and dies in foppery or covetousness.
Here therefore I place my first argument for Christian perfection; I exhort thee to labour after it, because there is no choice of any thing else for thee to labour after, there is nothing else that the reason of man can exhort thee to. The whole world has nothing to oifer thee in its stead; choose what other way thou wilt, thou hast chosen nothing but vanity and misery; for all the diflerent ways of the world, are only different ways of deluding thyself this only excels that, as one vanity can excel another. If thou wilt make thyself more happy than those