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SERM. We (blessed be God for it) live in more XXIII.
quiet times, we are not likely to be called to such hazardous trials of our constancy; we shall scarce be exposed to temptations of this extreme kind; it is therefore the more incumbent upon us to make the trifling renunciations, and to incur the petty dangers to which we may, and most probably shall, even now, be summoned. The world often expects from us one thing, and our religion demands of us another; supposing we comply with the latter, we shall lose, perhaps, some one who may call himself a friend, or we shall injure our fortune, or, what is more likely, we shall fall under the censure of our neighbours; our understanding or our spirit will be called in question; we shall be esteemed singular, affected, and morose, or we shall become, possibly, only a momentary jest to our companions. Terrible discourage. ments these from doing what God com
mands, and what our own hearts dictate! SERM,
XXIII. and yet experience may convince us that there are multitudes (alas! too probably, we ourselves are of the number) who are perpetually induced by them, slight as they are, to speak and to act in direct opposition both to their knowledge and their inclination. Perhaps you hope (particularly when the instance appears trifling) that there is more of folly than of guilt in this; but remember, that the more trifling the instance is, the less serious can be your sufferings or danger in not complying with it! remember, likewise, that the gradation from small concessions to great, is easy and precipitate; and remember, above all, the menace of our Saviour, which is directed against those, who, from a foolish regard to the opinion of the world, are induced to act in contradiction to what they know and feel to be right: " Whoever shall be ashamed of me, and
SERM. “ of my words, in this adulterous and sinXXIII.
“ ful generation, of him, also, shall the Son “ of man be ashamed, when he cometh in
the glory of the Father, with the holy angels.”
We will now proceed to consider the third sort of persons, described by our Saviour as having the word of God offered to them. Their reception of it is likened to ground overgrown with thorns, receiving good seed; as the thorns spring up with the seed, choke it in it its growth, and prevent it from coming to maturity, so the love of riches, of pleasures, of honours, predominate in the mind of these men, entirely outgrow the word of God, and suffer it not to attain to any degree of perfection. This is certainly the case with greatly too many; they have received, perhaps, a pious education, and were once fully per suaded, that the care of their immortal souls is the one thing needful, or, perhaps even
now, whenever they are brought to think s ERM.
XXIII. seriously on the subject, they acknowledge in their hearts its reality and consequence; they believe firmly that there are such places as heaven and hell for the virtuous and for the wicked; they feel some faint aspirations after the happines's allotted to those who die in the Lord, and are more deeply sensible of the terrible circumstance of falling into the hands of an offended and avenging God. These are promising im pressions, if they would but remain--fair seeds, if they could but be brought to maturity; but, alas ! they are fallen among thorns; they have gained admittance into an heart, in which this world, its cares and its pleasures are uppermost, and by these they are early blasted in their rise, and immaturely destroyed. The things of this world, by being immediately present, and perpetually the objects of our senses, have an undue influence with us; this we cannot
SERM. but acknowledge, when we compare them XXII.
with the things of the next; but, perhaps, we enter into the comparison very seldom, or, perhaps, it makes but very slight impression, and is driven from our minds the very next moment by the first human care or pleasure which comes across us.
However this be, there are multitudes apparently going on, as if there were no life after this, who yet do not pretend to deny there is one; but they must (they say) attend to raising their fortunes here, or, they are determined that they will enjoy their pleasures, and leave futurity to shift for itself. Is this wise, is this prudent? or rather, is it not the extremity of folly and madness ? Shall I, when called up to take such steps as may secure to me the greatest happiness to all eternity, shall I allege that I must beg to be excused, that I am attending to my farm or my merchandise, by which I expect to be richer