Page images
PDF
EPUB

of grace; that the rich only have souls to save; that our Lord, like the world, invites the rich only to his table? Think, did I say? Alas! they think little on the subject. They are in a deep sleep; lost in the night of ignorance. And it unfortunately happens, that if they are awakened at all, it is usually by the call of some enthusiast, who leads them from the chillness of indifference, to the burning fever of fanatical devotion. Let them rather hear the evangelical call, and apply it to themselves without delay; 'Awake, thou that sleepest:' and let them obey the friendly voice of him who came expressly to preach the gospel to the poor. Let them prepare themselves immediately to use the means of grace afforded them by the sacrament of the Lord's supper, and be thankful that at that table there are no invidious distinctions; that the rich and poor meet together, prostrate on their knees before their Maker, partaking his bounty without partiality, and supplicating his mercy; all equally poor and helpless, without his grace.

There are, it seems probable, many others among us, who think themselves too young to be at all concerned with things so serious as the sacrament. They go, indeed, to church, but never think of the holy communion, because they are too young to be serious. Permit me to ask, what is the precise age at which the care of the soul is to commence? When does the minority of the soul terminate ? If all are exempt who are young, and who think themselves young, how great will be the number? Is not going to church, a serious thing ? They do not think themselves too young to go to church. May it not then be suspected, that as they think themselves unconcerned with the sacrament, they may also think themselves unconcerned with the prayers and the discourses of the church; and so may frequent the church, merely to display their external garb, to gaze and to be gazed at, to pass away an idle hour, and to comply with an established custom ? But if there be truth in Christianity, they are trifling with the most important matters, in a most dangerous manner. They are acquiring a habit of considering the most sacred things with indifference. If they are too young to think of serious things, they certainly are not too young to die. Let them take a walk in the churchyard, and read the inscriptions on the tomb-stones. They will find, perhaps, as many young as old, among the victims of death; and they must allow that youth is a more dangerous season, with respect to temptations, than any other; and consequently, that it more particularly requires the succours of divine grace, to keep it from falling into sin and misery. And what so powerful a means of grace as the sacrament, after a due preparation ?

No; you are not too young to receive the divine blessing of grace. Only be sensible how much you want it; how wretched and how profligate you may become; into what shameful and dreadful conduct you may fall, without it. Awake, therefore, from a sleep, which you cannot indulge without losing the morning of life; the best season for every kind of work, spiritual as well as worldly. Begin well, in order to end well. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, and he will not forget you in the days of your old age. Trust not in beauty. Trust not in strength. Beauty alone has no charms in the eye of heaven. Strength of body cannot prevail against the arm of offended Omnipotence. But beauty and strength, combined with virtue and piety-how lovely in the sight of men ! how pleasing to heaven !- peculiarly pleasing, because, with every temptation to deviate, they voluntarily walk in the path of duty.

There is another class yet, with whom I shall expostulate on the propriety of receiving the sacrament, which they are but too apt to neglect, apparently from an idea that they have no concern in it. They claim to be lookers-on, like spectators at a contest for life and death, without any interest in the event. I mean the numerous persons who fill the very useful and creditable station of servants and dependants, apprentices, and labourers for hire. These are apt to consider Sunday merely as a holiday, or rather vacation from labour; a day in which they are to adorn themselves above their rank and station, and to sacrifice to the idols of false pleasure and expensive vanity. To think of the sacrament, or any other serious, affecting duty, on a day devoted to feasting, to jollity, and to wandering from house to house, would throw a gloom upon it, inconsistent with their schemes of enjoyment. Thoughtlessness and folly mark their conduct on that day more than on any day in the week; a day intended for their improvement in all virtue, honesty, and true wisdom. What! have they not souls, as well as their superiors in rank ? Is not our God their God ? Did not Christ die for them, as well as for their masters or employers ? Think of these things, and let not the sabbath-day, intended to promote your salvation, contribute, more than any other day, to your destruction.

Would you have it a day of pleasure? In order to be such, let it be a day of innocence, a day of devotion, a day of rational, sober, discreet recreation.

Think not that religion will destroy your cheerfulness. No; it will promote it. Nothing gives so fine spirits as a clear conscience; a bosom that feels the satisfaction of having discharged its duties to God and man. Then recreation and harmless pleasure are truly delightful. The sweet, in such circumstances, is without bitter; the rose without a thorn; the honey without a sting. I have ever recommended a cheerful religion ; because all religion was certainly intended to make men happy; and because gloominess, moroseness, and severity, which some persons require in religious duties, originate in weakness and error, and lead to folly, misery, and madness; to all that is despicable or deplorable. As religion is the comfort, superstition and fanaticism are the bane and curse of human nature. Let us ever beware of excess, even in good and laudable pursuits; for wisdom, and virtue, and happiness, all dwell with the golden mediocrity. Our exhortations to religion must indeed be warm and animated'; because the greater part of men err, rather in not reaching the desirable point, than by going beyond it. Yet cautions are also necessary, lest the willing, the zealous, the tenderhearted, should be urged, by their own ardour and by persuasion, to dangerous and unhappy extremes.

We have, I think, seen that the lively, animating summons contained in the words, “Awake, thou that sleepest,' is necessary to a great part of mankind, whose feelings are become callous, and who (to repeat the emphatic words of Scripture) have a heart of stone, instead of a heart of flesh; necessary to many, who are, upon the wbole, commendable for the general decency and propriety of their conduct in the world, as the world now is circumstanced. Even good kind of people, as they are called, and appear to men, are not sufficiently awakened to the calls of religious duty. They acquiesce in decencies, decorums, plausibilities, and the cold formal morality which may be practised on the most selfish motives, for worldly interest, for health, and for pleasure. They are not sufficiently sensible of the gospel truths, its great promises, and its dreadful denunciations of vengeance. They are virtuous beathens; followers of the religion of nature, not that of Christ. The world approves them, and therefore they approve themselves; but can the world save them ? Can they save themselves ? No; assuredly, if Christianity be not a fable, they must come to Christ for salvation.

Persons who live in pleasure, that is, who make vain and sensual pleasure the sole business of their lives, are expressly said, in Scripture, to be dead while they live. They appear with smiles of perpetual gaiety; are often furnished with riches and honours; but yet, in the Scripture sense, they are dead, if they are not alive to Christ. What avail their worldly ornaments ? The soul takes no real delight in them, because it naturally aspires to higher things. So have I seen a nosegay of tulips, and pinks, and roses, put into the cold hand of a dead corpse, in a coffin, while the poor image of what once was man, could neither see the gaudy tints, nor smell the fragrance.

« PreviousContinue »