« VorigeDoorgaan »
compliment, let us examine our ways, and consider impartially, what the religion of most men is.
We are baptized in our infancy, that is, as I conceive, dedicated and devoted to God's service, by our parents and the church, as young Samuel was by his mother Hannah; and there we take a solemn vow, To forsake the devil and all his works, the vaip pomp and glory of the world, with all the covetous desires of it; to forsake also the carnal desires of the flesh, and not to follow nor be led by them. This vow we take when we be children, and understand it not; and how many are there, who know, and consider, and regard what they have vowed, when they are become men, almost as little as they did being children! Consider the lives and public actions of most men of all conditions, in court, city, and country, and then deny it, if you ca.n, that those three things, which we have renounced in our baptism, the profits, honours, and pleasures of the world, are the very gods which divide the , world amongst them; are served more devoutly, confided in more heartily, loved more affectionately, than the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, in whose name we are baptized : deny, if you can, the daily and constant employment of all men to be either a violent prosecution of the vain pomp and glory of the world, or of the power, riches, and contemptible profits of it, or of the momentary or unsatisfying pleasures of the flesh, or else of the more diabolical humours of pride, malice, revenge, and such-like; and yet with this empty form we please and satisfy ourselves, as well as if we were lively born again by the Spirit of God, not knowing or not regarding what St. Peter has
taught us, that the baptism, which must save us, is, “Not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience unto God.” 1 Pet. iii. 21.
When we are come to years capable of instruction, many, which is lamentable to consider, are so little regarded by themselves or others, that they continue little better than pagans in a commonwealth of Christians, and know little more of God, or of Christ, than if they had been bred in the Indies. A lamentable case, and which will one day lie heavy upon their account, which might have amended it, and did not. But many, I confess, are taught to act over this play of religion and learning, to say, “Our Father, which art in heaven;" and, “I believe in God the Father Almighty;" but where are the men that live so, as if they did believe in earnest, that God is their almighty Father? Where are they that fear him, and trust in him, and depend upon him only for their whole happiness, and love him, and obey him, as in reason we ought to do to an almighty Father; who, if he be our Father, and we be indeed his children, will do for us all the good he can; and if he be almighty, can do for us all the good he will; and yet, how few are there, who love him with half that affection as children usually do their parents, or believe him with half that simplicity, or serve him with half that diligence ? And then, for the Lord's Prayer, the plain truth is, we lie unto God for the most part clean through it; and, for want of desiring indeed, what in word we pray for, tell him to his face as many false tales. as we make petitions. For who shews by
: his endeavours, thät heidesires heartily that God's
name should be hallowed, that is, holily and religiously worshipped and adored by all men ? That his kingdom shall be advanced and enlarged; that his blessed will should be universally obeyed ? Who shews, by his forsaking sin, that he desires, so much as he should do, the forgiveness of it? Nay, who doth not revenge, upon all occasions, the affronts, contempts, and injuries put upon him, and so upon the matter curse himself, as often as he says, “ Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.' How few depend upon God only for their “daily bread,” viz. the good things of this life, as upon the only Giver of them, so as neither to get nor keep any of them, by any means, which they know or fear to be offensive unto God ? How few desire in earnest to avoid temptation ? Nay, who almost is there, that takes not the devil's office out of his hand, and is not himself a tempter both to himself and others ? Lastly, Who almost is there that desires heartily, and above all things, so much as the thing deserves, to be delivered from the greatest evil; sin, I mean, and the anger of God? Now, beloved, this is certain; he that employs not requisite industry, to obtain what he pretends to desire, does not desire indeed, but only pretends to do so: he that desires not what he prays for, prays with tongue only, and not with his heart; indeed, does not pray to God, but play and dally with him. And yet this is all which men generally do, and therefore herein also accomplish this prophecy, “ Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."
And this were ill enough, were it in private ; but we abuse God Almighty also with our public and solemn formalities; we make the church a stage whereon to act our parts, and play our pageantry; there we make a profession every day of confessing our sins with humble, lowly, and obedient hearts; and yet, when we have talked after this manner, twenty, thirty, forty years together, our hearts for the most part continue as proud, as impenitent, as disobedient, as they were in the beginning. We make great protestations, “ When we assemble and meet together to render thanks to God Almighty, for the benefits received at his hands;" and if this were to be performed with words, with hosannas and hallelujahs, and gloria patris, and psalms, and hymns, and suchlike outward matters, peradventure we should do it very sufficiently; but, in the mean time, with our lives and actions we provoke the Almighty, and that to his face, with all variety of grievous and bitter provocations; we do daily and hourly such things as we know, and he hath assured us, to be as odious unto him, and contrary to his nature, as any thing in the world is to the nature of any man in the world, and all this upon poor, trifling, trivial, no temptations. If a man, whom you have dealt well with, should deal so with you, one whom you had redeemed from the Turkish slavery, and instated in some indifferent good inhe. ritance, should make you fine speeches, entertain you with panegyrics, and have your praises always in his mouth; but all this while do nothing that pleases you, but upon all occasions, put all affronts and indignities upon you: would you say this were a thankful man? Nay, would you not make heaven and earth ring of his unthankfulness, and detest him almost as much for his fair (7) speeches, as his foul actions ? Beloved, such is our unthankfulness to our God and Creator, to our Lord and Saviour: our tongues ingeminate, and cry aloud, Hosanna, hosanna; but the louder voice of our lives and actions is, “ Crucify him, crucify him." We court God Almighty, and compliment with him, and profess to esteem his service perfect freedom; but if any thing be to be done, much more, if any thing be to be suffered for him, here we leave him. We bow the knee before him, and put a reed in his hand, and a crown upon his head, and cry, Hail, King of the Jews :" but then, with our customary sins, we give him gall to eat, and vinegar to drink; we thrust a spear in his side, nail him to the cross, and crucify to ourselves the Lord of glory. This is not the office of a friend to bewail a dead friend
а with vain lamentations; Sed quæ
voluerit meminisse, quæ mandaverit erequi—to remember what he desires, and execute what he commands. So said a dying Roman to his friend, and so say I to you. To be thankful to God, is not to say, God be praised, or, God be thanked; but to remember what he desires, and execute what he commands. To be thankful to God, is certainly to love him, and to love him is to keep his commandments: so saith our Saviour (John xix.) “ If ye love me,
) keep my commandments.” If we do so, we may justly pretend to thankfulness; which, believe me, is not a word, nor to be performed with words: but, if we do not so, as generally we do not, our talk of thankfulness is nothing else but mere talk, and we accomplish St. Paul's prophecy herein also; having a form of thankfulness, but not the reality, nor the power of it.