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and impiously offers facrifice to his own merit and fufficien cy? Can a man be rationally cheerful and fubftantially happy, while he ftands expofed to the wrath of God, and remains a wretched flave to his lufts? Or can the profperity of particular communities, and the welfare of society in general, be maintained and promoted, while the turbulent paffions of depraved nature are unrestrained and unfubdued ? But, on the other hand, how amiable an appearance does true religion make, when unaffected humility, divine hope, pure defire, and fervent love, form the chief expreffions of it! These are graces which manifeftly tend to exalt the glory of God, and promote the happiness of men. And fince there is apparently fuch an unity of defign in this great concern, it neceffarily follows, that if we are the children of God, and the difciples of Jefus, we have been all made to drink into one fpirit.
Having thus illuftrated and confirmed the argument in the text, we shall clofe what hath been faid, with briefly applying it to the ufes mentioned in the beginning of this difcourfe. And,
1. It fully obviates a very popular, and indeed a very plaufible objection to the truth of religion. "There are "fo many different notions and profeffions in the world,
fays the man of infidelity, that it is no easy matter to de"termine which is right. The natural inference therefore "from this variety of fentiment is, that all religions are doubtful, and defective of that degree of evidence which "is neceffary to fatisfy an inquifitive mind." But the light in which this matter hath been placed, clearly shews the objection to be fallacious, and the conclufion most irrational and abfurd.
That men do reason very differently, and that too upon the effential points of divine revelation, is acknowledged; and that many do make religion to confift in what does not really belong to it, and profefs themselves to be what they are not, is likewife as certain. But it does not follow from
thefe abufes of religion, that it is itself a vague, loose and uncertain thing. There is but one way to heaven, and however the apprehenfions of good men themfelves as te fome leffer things, may not be alike clear, and their external forms of profeflion may in many refpects differ; yet the leading principles of their judgment, and the main feelings and experiences of their hearts, are strictly analogous and fimilar. And we may venture to appeal to every one, who hath entered into the spirit of thefe great and important matters, for the truth of what we have affirmed. Be not shocked therefore at the different appearances religion may affume. They are easily to be accounted for, upon this plain and acknowledged principle, that at present we know in part, and prophecy in part, and that the best of us are subject to prejudices, which through various causes are almost unconquerable. Religion is however but one thing ; and if you are fo happy as really to know and feel what it is, you will have the teftimony of all good men, of every age, kindred, nation and tongue, to join you in your humble and cheerful profeffion of it. This argument alfo,
2. Furnishes a powerful motive to the cultivation of intimate union and cordial affection, among all the people of God. Is religion one thing? Then they who are partakers of this one common bleffing, fhould also be the partakers of each other's esteem and love. I mean not from hence to infer the leaft indifference to any divine truth, which proposes itself to the faith of a Chriftian. As truth can be but one, fo no discovery which infinite wisdom and goodness have thought fit to make, is by any means to be confidered as indifferent in itself, and of little or no ufe. Thus to treat any of the facred doctrines or institutions of the Bible, is, in proportion to their importance, to fap the very foundation of that love and union we wish to recommend. That integrity which arifes out of the nature of religion, demands a firm and unfhaken attachment to whatever appears to be of divine authority. And that pure con
sern which it excites in the breast, for the glory of God, and the good of mankind, not only excuses but warrants a becoming zeal in the defence of the truth.
But furely, as we ought all to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the faints; so we are obliged by the fimplicity and fameness of that divine spirit and temper, which hath been infused into our hearts, moft fincerely and affectionately to love one another. If the laws of humanity constrain us to express a tender regard toward mankind in general, purely upon this principle that they partake of the same nature with ourselves; the argument must receive additional strength, when it comes cloathed with all the native dignity and generofity which religion gives it, at the fame time presenting to our view the good man who is born from above, as the object of this our esteem and affection. Can we believe him to be the offspring of God, the brother of Jesus, and a partaker of the same nature with ourselves, and not embrace him with the utmost cordiality in the arms of Chriftian charity? God forbid that we should be infenfible to fuch divine impreffions! Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love*. May this temper live and increase in each of our hearts, fo proving us to be the difciples of Jefus; till at length it shall arrive at its utmost perfection, in the realms of light and glory above!
* John iv. 7, 8.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RELIGION.
LUKE X. 42.
One thing is needful.
HAT religion is a concern of infinite importance to mankind, every one will acknowledge who admits that there really is fuch a thing. And yet, alas! there are few only who have a deep, operative, abiding fenfe of this impreffed upon their hearts. To excite therefore your attention to this one grand concern, and by the grace of God, to perfuade you to a vigorous and perfevering pursuit of it, is the object of this difcourfe. Nor can, methinks, any one: among us turn a deaf ear to this argument, while he duly reflects, that it is not only the most interesting which was ever proposed to his attention, but that it ftands thus diftin-' guished in our text, by the decisive sentence of the Son of God himself.
What led our Saviour to discourse on this subject, is par-' ticularly mentioned in the preceding verfes. Entering it feems into a certain village, he was invited to the house of a woman named Martha, who had a fifter called Mary. This village, it is highly probable, was Bethany, a place not far from Jerufalem; and these two women, the fame of whom the Evangelift John fpeaks*, and whofe brother (Lazarus) had been raised from the dead. They appear both of them G * John xi.
to have been the friends of Jefus, and of religion; though, in the course of the ftory, the preference, in regard of piety, is manifeftly given to Mary above Martha.
As to Mary, the fat at the feet of Jefus, and heard his word*. Her attention was almost wholly taken up with the things of God; so that she gladly embraced every opportunity of hearing our Saviour's doctrine, and profiting by his inftructions. But as to Martha, she was cumbered about much ferving t. Indeed her much ferving was the effect of her hofpitality, and an expreffion of her love to Christ, and was therefore, in thefe views of it, highly commendable. But her active and impetuous temper had hurried her into too great anxiety about worldly things, and fo was likely to prove hurtful to her best interests. Yea, one ill effect of it remarkably appeared, in the indecent fretfulness she betrayed on the prefent occafion. For, in the midst of her busy care to provide for our Saviour's entertainment, obferving her fifter wholly taken up with his company and converfation, she petulantly complains of her inattention to the affairs of the family, and prays that the might be dismis fed to affist her therein. To which our Lord immediately makes answer in the verfe preceding the text: Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things. "The anxiety you exprefs upon this occafion is unbecom"ing and finful. How fond foever you may be of fhewing "me refpect, yet there is a mixture of vanity with your "hospitality, and of worldly mindedness with your care and ❝industry. You are too busy about these matters. The
affairs of your family, though they ought to be prudently ❝attended to, yet should not shut out the grand concern of "God and religion. This is the one thing needful. Be "perfuaded therefore to transfer your needlefs anxieties, "from these many trifling matters, to that which is of indif"penfable importance. There is a neceffity of one thing ‡. “And instead of cenfuring your fifter Mary as if she were
*Luke x. 39.
† Ver. 40.
† Ενω δέ ετι χρεια.