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you know Christianity is vilified, Christ himself blasphemed, and his spiritual body corrupted, wounded, mangled, through your unchristian course of life? Or are your sins all unintended, undesigned, and purely accidental ? mean absolutely nothing by following the flesh, and hunting after the world, with all the force of your understanding, and all the anxiety of your heart? Nothing, I verily believe, but your own gratification. But then most certainly nothing more was meant by the first betrayers and murderers of Christ. Will you admit this plea of yours, when made by your servant? He, poor man, tells you, it is not to offend or injure you, but to please himself, that he performs none of your commands, does every thing you dislike, and associates often with your enemies; and you are as well assured of his sincerity, on this occasion, as of your own towards God, in the use of this apology. How dare you now expect better services from him, than you render to God, the great master of you both ?
In the next place, whether your ingratitude is not of as deep a black as your treachery, you will never know, till you feelingly reflect on what Christ hath done for you, and as impartially on what you have done to him.
He, the Son of God, hath died to save you, a poor, unworthy criminal, from endless infamy and misery (O think how great that infamy and misery !) and to bring you to endless glory and happiness; O consider, how high that glory! How infinite that happiness! How coolly you hear it! As coolly you return it by your formal professions, your dry thanksgivings, your unwilling and insignificant services, through which scarcely any footsteps, of either your understanding or affection, are to be traced. Yet this negative is the least ugly side of your ingratitude. On the other, are found all your positive sins; your vile thoughts, your false, profane, or seducing discourse ; your abominable actions; all imagined, uttered, committed, directly against him who died for you. Of this you are well aware, if you know any thing of the religion you profess, and therefore cannot claim the benefit of Christ's dying prayer, even for his murderers, ' Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' You perfectly well know, what you are doing by all your coldness of devotion, and by all your warmth in sin. You know, that coldness is a renunciation of him, and that warmth, rebellion against him. You know, that, by both, you his professed member, unnaturally nail him to a new cross. Will you proceed to repeat this inhuman, this ungrateful, this atheistical murder, almost every moment of your life, and still continue to call Christ your Saviour? What cruelty, what mockery, is equal to this?
Know, most fatally-mistaken man, that this is desperate, infinite folly too (for “to him all power, all judgment, in heaven and earth, are committed),' and that you are in a state of real rebellion against the Sovereign of the world, and of war with the Almighty. If your forces are sufficient to maintain this war, and your armour proof against his two-edged sword, go on; but, for shame, no longer say, you are a Christian. There is as much sense, and more consistency, in directly contending with God, than in pretending to be his servant, and yet fighting against him.
But in case you know your own weakness, and are afraid of contending with an adversary, to whom vengeance belongeth,' and who can, “and will repay,' let me, with the grief, the fear, the compassion, of a fellow-creature, and a fellow-Christian, earnestly press you to repent, and make your submission, this very instant. Your case will not admit a moment's delay; neither is there any medium between being for Christ, and against him.' Salvation is found only in being for him; damnation only, in being against him. Awake, consider this, ere it is too late, and choose your party ; but consider it with your whole understanding, and choose with your whole heart, for remember you choose for all eternity.
And may the all-wise God assist you, and us all, in this one thing needful, for the sake of Christ Jesus, our Redeemer, to whom with the Father of mercies, and the Comforter of souls, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore.
FOLLY WISER THAN WISDOM.
ST. LUKE XVI. 8.
The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children
ST. JAMES tells us, there are two kinds of wisdom, that which is from above, pure, peaceable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy;' and that which is from beneath, earthly, sensual, devilish.' They, who are enlightened by the former, which is nothing else, but the knowledge and spirit of the gospel, are in my text called “the children of light;' and they who follow the latter, are there called “the children of this world.'
Perfect wisdom consists in a right choice both of ends and means, and in a steady pursuit of those ends by these means. The real child of light, or the true Christian, shews himself wise in all the three respects, but more especially in the choice of his grand end or aim, which is to please God, and to be happy for ever.
In regard to his chief end or view, the child of this world shews himself to be a fool, for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, who can best distinguish between the true and false wisdom; but then the worldling, in the choice of his means, and still more in the steadiness of his pursuit, leaves the good Christian so far behind, that, in these branches of wisdom, he is pronounced by our Saviour, at the close of the parable from whence my text is taken, to be wiser than the child of light.'
It was however by no means the intention of our blessed Saviour to recommend the worldly wisdom to us, nor to propose the policy of the steward in the parable as a fit object of our imitation, any farther than as he shewed himself wise in turning his present opportunities to his future advantage. This is plain from his being called an unjust or iniquitous steward in the parable itself, and even by him who applauds the craft of his contrivance. We know, that, in the judgment of our blessed Saviour, all iniquity, howsoever deedly schemed, and artfully managed, is folly; and such it will surely appear to be at that time, when he will say, depart from me all ye that work iniquity.' He only laments and reproves it in mankind, that the very wisest and best among us rarely, perhaps never, shew as high a degree of thought and forecast for the eternal interest of their souls, a matter of infinite consequence, as men of only equal talents shew in regard to their worldly interest, which, in comparison, is a thing of no moment. And to make this reflection, so very astonishing, and so very severe, and yet so glaringly true, the more striking, he couches it in a proverbial paradox, and says, ' the children of this world,' or of ignorance and darkness, ‘are in their generation,' their tribe or sort, ' wiser than the children of light,' or of true, real, and heavenly knowledge ; those, he affirms, see better at midnight than these at noon-day; they, who are so stupid as to prefer a short life of vanity and vexation to an endless life of happiness and glory, do nevertheless, being more closely interested in so absurd a choice, put their natural abilities more on the stretch, and consequently exercise more thought and judgment, in order to the accomplishment of their low and insignificant design, than the wisest saint does for his soul, for heaven, and for God. This, in short, is what he upbraids us with, that the worldly man hath more of the worldly wisdom, than the spiritual man hath of the spiritual. The man who schemes only for this life is so far bedarkened, as to know neither the world nor himself, or he would not lay out himself upon it; and yet he conducts himself, in order to it, with great address and judgment. Whereas he who schemes for heaven, is so far in the light as to know both, to know what heaven is, who God is, and how the one is to be served, and the other obtained ; and yet acts, on most occasions, is if he thought his soul not worth saving, nor God worth serving, nor heaven worth acquiring.
Experience would have made this shameful truth but too evident, had our Saviour never pronounced it. Compare the statesman and saint, each in his own way, on
the articles of attention, application, depth of thought, force of judgment, and quickness or skill in the choice of expedients and measures ; and you will soon subscribe to our Saviour's decision, though you do not receive him as yours.
Compare the merchant, or lower still, the tradesman and farmer, with the plain good Christian, of equal, or,
you please, of superior abilities; and while you see this merchant, or mechanic, applying closely to his worldly business, looking sharply, reasoning clearly, judging skilfully, and, if need be, consulting the most knowing of his neighbours, in all his dealings, whether he buys, sells, or contests a property of any kind; you see the good Christian frequently off his guard, sometimes asleep on the brink of destruction, and discovering such a want of knowledge and judgment, as to religious matters of the greatest moment, that you cannot help wondering, what is become of that natural understanding he shews in other things, that do by no means so nearly concern him. See how the worldly man labours by day and night! how he weighs his words! how he sets his very looks to the drift of his designs ! how, like a serpent, he winds this way and that, when he is at a pinch! how he now mines and dives from the eye of your penetration ! and how now again he shews his teeth, if he hopes to intimidate ! and all this perhaps for an advantage of five or six shillings in buying your web of cloth, or selling his horse ! what do you see like this in the Christian, considered as such? It is true he, now and then, examines himself; sometimes meditates; often prays; goes frequently to the house and table of God; is honest in his dealings; is compassionate to the poor; is sober as to wine, and modest as to women, But then how often do senseless prejudices, idle customs, or unruly passions, throw him off his guard into a conduct, as remote from common sense, as from the strictness of his religious principles ! How many idle words are suffered to pass over his tongue, and unworthy thoughts through his mind! Is there a day wherein he does not, more than once, put his hand to such actions as religion forbids, or neglect those it requires? How cool is he to the honour of God, and to the propagation of his gospel among his children and servants? Does he appear to