Page images
PDF
EPUB

are thereby instructed; their views rectified and enlarged by the objects that are set before them.

From these important truths, several reflections no less important arise.

We are naturally taught, in the first place, never to be hasty in finding fault with any of the arrangements of Providence.

The present permission of moral evil on the earth seemed, on the first view, to furnish a strong objection against either the wisdom or the goodness of the Author of nature. After bcholding the useful purposes which are answered by that permission, how cautious should we be in advancing any of our rash speculations against his government and conduct! To our confined and humble station it belongs not to censure, but to submit, trust, and adore ; satisfied that the farther we inquire, the rectitude of his ways will appear the more; thankful for the discoveries of them which have been imparted to us; and persuaded that, where our discoveries fail, it is not because there is no more wisdom or goodness to be seen, but because our present condition allows us not to see more.

In the second place, let us be taught with what eye we are to look upon those bad men whom we find around us in the world. Not surely with an eye of envy. Whatever prosperity they may seem to enjoy, they are still no more than tares, the weeds of the field; contemptible in the sight of God, tolerated by his providence for a while on account of the righteous, to whose improvement they are rendered subservient. The parable informs us that, in the end, they are to be gathered together and burnt.

In this life only they

have their good things. But their prosperity is transitory. They are brought into desolation in a moment, and utterly consumed with terrours. As a dream when one awaketh, so, O God, when thou awakest, thou shalt despise their image.* - When we consider their unhappy state, it becomes us to behold them with the eye of pity. Let us remember that, in the midst of their errours, they are by nature still our brethren. Let us not behave to them in the spirit of bitterness. Insult not their follies. Pride not yourselves on superiour virtue. Remember that, as bad men are mixed with the good, so, in the best men, vices are at present mixed with virtues. Your own character, good as you may esteem it, is not free from every evil taint; and in the characters of those whom you reprobate as vicious, there are always some good qualities mixed with the bad ones. Study, as far as you can, to reclaim and amend them; and if, in any degree, you have been profited by their failings, endeavour, in return, to profit them by good counsel and advice; by advice not administered with officious zeal, or self-conceited superiority, but with the tenderness of compassion and real friendship.

In the third place, in whatever proportion the admixture of vice may seem to take place in the world, let us never despair of the prevalence of virtue on the whole. Let us not exaggerate, beyond measure, the quantity of vice that is found in the mixture. It is proper to observe, that in the parable now before us, after the owner of the field had sown his good seed, no reason is given us to think, that the good seed was entirely choaked up by tares. On the contrary, we are told, that the blade sprung up and brought forth fruit; and though the tares also arose, yet, in the end, there was a harvest, when the wheat was reaped and gathered into the barn. In the most corrupted times, God never leaves himself without many witnesses on earth. He is always attentive to the cause of goodness; and frequently supports and advances it by means which we are unable to trace. He nourishes much piety and virtue in hearts that are unknown to us; and beholds repentance ready to spring up among many whom we consider as reprobates. -I know that it has always been common for persons to represent the age in which they live as the worst that ever appeared; and religion and virtue as just on the point of vanishing from among men. This is the language sometimes of the serious; often of the hypocritical, or of the narrow-minded. But true religion gives no sanction to such severe censures, or such gloomy views. Though the tares must be at all times springing up, there is no reason for believing that they shall ever overspread the whole field. The nature of the weeds that spring up may vary, according to the nature of the soil. Different modes of iniquity may distinguish different ages of the world; while the sum of corruption is nearly the

* Psalm lxxiji. 19, 20.

Let not our judgments of men and of the times in which we live, be hasty and presumptuous. Let us trust in the grace of God, and hope the best of mankind.

same.

In the fourth and last place, let us keep our eyes ever fixed on that important period, which is alluded

to in the text as the conclusion of all. Let both grow together until the harvest. The great spiritual year is to be closed by a harvest, when the householder is to gather the wheat into his barn; when, at the end of the world, the final distinction of men and characters is to take place. The confused mixture of good and evil, which now prevails, is only a temporary dispensation of Providence, accommodated to man’s fallen and imperfect state.

Let it not tempt us.for a moment to distrust the reality of the Divine government; or to entertain the remotest suspicion that moral good and evil are to be on the same terms for ever.

The frailties of our nature fitted us for no more at present than the enjoyment of a very mixed and imperfect society. But when our nature, purified and refined, shall become ripe for higher advancement, then shall the spirits of the just, disengaged from any polluted mixture, undisturbed by sin or by sinners, be united in one divine assembly, and rejoice for ever in the presence of him who made them. Looking forward to this glorious issue with steadfast faith, let no cross appearances ever discomfit our hopes, or lead us to suspect that we have been serving God in vain. If we continue faithful to the death, we may rest assured, that in due time we shall receive the crown of life.

SERMON LV.

On the RELIEF which the GOSPEL affords to the

DISTRESSED.

[Preached at the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's

Supper.]

MATTI. xi. 28.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,

and I reill give you rest.

THE HE life of man on eartli is doomed to be clouded with various evils. Throughout

Throughout all ranks the afflicted form a considerable portion of the human race; and even they who have a title to be called prosperous, are always, in some periods of their life, obliged to drink from the cup of bitterness. The Christian religion is particularly indebted to our regard, by accommodating itself with great tenderness to this distressed condition of mankind. It is not to be considered as merely an authoritative system of precepts. Important precepts it indeed delivers for the wise and proper regulation of life. But the same voice which enjoins our duty, utters the words of consolation. The Gospel deserves to be held a dispensation of relief to mankind under both the temporal and spiritual distresses of their state.

« PreviousContinue »