« AnteriorContinuar »
honours which distinguish the sons of men. No; it is connected with freedom of access into a father's presence; holy boldness and familiarity as with a parent; a constant share of his tender love, gracious communications, and providential bounty. He, who created and governs the world, bids us "cast all our care upon him," unbosom all our sorrows, and commit all our concerns for time and eternity to his management, for "he careth for us." He promises never to forget us; to withhold no good thing from us; and to make all things work together for our good.
These are some of the believer's privileges in life. But religion never shows its real value more than in a dying hour. And then, nothing else avails. Wicked men, who have despised it all their lives, are forced, at last, to have recourse to its forms; and in general, they who have lived without its power, are contented and cheated with its form, when they die. They bear, however, a strong testimony to the excellency of religion; for, commonly, "Men may live fools; but fools they cannot die." Like wretched Balaam, they wish "to die the death of the righteous;" but most men die as they live. Yet, the God of all grace hath sometimes wrought miracles of mercy at the eleventh hour.
But, oh, the privilege of dying in the Lord! "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord." Mark the end of the Christian: it is peace. The God whom he has feared, and loved, and served, will not forsake him now. The Saviour who died for him will sup
Cort him in dying. Death has lost its sting; and lessed is the death of him that has an interest in the death of Christ.
Our limits oblige us very briefly to run over the Ghristian privileges; let us open another source of his pleasures; namely,
III. The performance of Christian duties. Of these, Prayer is the first and chief. "Behold he prayeth!" was the first mark of Paul's conversion. And this is so pleasant to the Christian, that he cannot live without it. As well might a man live without breathing, as a Christian without praying. He esteems it a blessed privilege to " call upon the Lord in the day of trouble," and to be graciously heard aud delivered. He loves the Lord, who heard the voice of his supplication, and determines to call upon him as long as he lives. The duty of Praise is also very pleasant. It is not only a comely but a pleasant thing to be thankful. "Is any man merry," saith St. James, "let him sing Psalms." Singing the praises of God with the heart, is a delightful service, akin to the joys of heaven. Reading and hearing the word of God are also exceedingly pleasant. As new-born babes desire the breast, so new-born souls desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. "The law of thy mouth," saith David, "is better to me than thousands of gold and silver. How sweet are thy words to my taste ; yea, sweeter than honey to my palate;" "They are more to me than my necessary food." Yes, whoever is born of God, loves the word; and whoever dislikes it, cavils at it, neglects it, has a sure evidence of being in a carnal state. The Lord's day, and the public ordinances of God's house, are very pleasant to a believer. From his very soul, he calls the Sabbath a "delight, holy of the Lord, and honourable;" he esteems "a day in his courts better than a thousand;" he is "glad when it is said, Let us go up to the house of the Lord, and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths." Oh, if poor carnal sinners knew the pleasures of the godly in the worship of the Lord, they would be ashamed of their poor, mete, idle, worldly amusements; and gladly forsake them for the more solid, refined, and heavenly joys of the children, of God. These are but a small part of the Christian's pleasures. We might add, his sacred joy at the table of the Lord: his sweet meditations on divine subjects: his profitable conversation with fellow Christians; the supports he finds under afflictions; and the prospects he enjoys of eternal felicity.
And as all these are good and pleasant in themselves, so they appear to greater advantage, if you compare them with the pleasures of the world. They are certainly far more solid and satisfying; far more rational and noble: and, above all, far more durable.
"The most innocent of our carnal pleasures, such as eating, drinking, sleeping, and the like, are the badges of our weakness, and a sort of reproach upon our nature; and it is our inclination to them, rather than any excellence in them, that makes them alluring." They are needful, it is true, at present; but when our nature shall be glorified, we shall be "as the angels," and require none of these things. And when a man places his happiness in sensual pleasures, and carries them to excess in gluttony, drunkenness, uncleanness, and so on, he becomes a brute rather than a man; and the Scripture pronounces him, dead while he liveth. "The good man is satisfied from himself;" he has an inward source of joy; but the carnal man who roves abroad for happiness, is never satisfied. "The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing." The best of his pleasures perish in his using. Solomon says, "As the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of a fool"—a noisy blaze, and soon over. Let a wise man listen to the impertinent, vain, foolish, proud, profane conversation of a set of gay and loose people in a tavern; what a mass of nonsense and wickedness does it appear! and could it be written down and shown to the company themselves, surely they would be ashamed of it! How childish are the amusements of the card-table! How strange that a number of rational and immortal beings should spend hours upon hours in playing with bits of painted paper! How ridiculous for a company of grown people to be jumping and running about a room in their dancing assemblies! How foolish for thousands of men and women to trail many miles to a race ground, just to see one horse's head before another! Not to mention other pleasures of the world, which are as criminal as they are mean, which will by no means bear reflection, but fill the mind with painful remorse. Ah! what real pleasure can that man enjoy, who is forced to review the past with regret, to look on the present with confusion, and on the future with dread and dismay. The carnal pleasure-taker is an hypocrite in his mirth. "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness." It is recorded in the life of Colonel Gardiner, that before his conversion, when he gave loose to all his carnal passions, and lived in many guilty pleasures; when he was deemed by his companions, so happy, that they called him the happy rake; he was even then so miserable, at times, through the stings of his conscience, that he has envied a dog that came into the room, wishing rather to have been that dog, than to be a man who "must give an account of himself to God." This is what wise and holy Job, long ago observed—" Though wickedness is sweet in his mouth; though he hide it under his tongue; though he spare it, and forsake it not; but keep it still within his mouth, yet his meat in his bowels is turned; it is the gall of asps within him." How just is the comparison! Sin is the food of a carnal man; it is his meat and drink to do the will of his father which is in hell. This food is very sweet to him, sweeter than honey and the honey-comb; so sweet that he is unwilling to lose the relish of it, but tries to enjoy it as long as possible. But what is the consequence? Is this sweet food wholesome? No. It is turned in his bowels to poison. It is the gall of asps within him. The bite of an asp was deadly. There was no remedy for it; it killed in four hours, and yet it killed with little pain. Thus Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, destroyed herself. Just so the sinner dies; he may be stupified and feel no terror in his soul; but the bitterness that flows from sin, is the bitterness of everlasting death.
We have now taken a view of the pleasures of religion; in the possession of Christian graces, in the enjoyment of Christian privileges, and in the performance of Christian duties. And now, dear young people, are you not almost persuaded to be Christians.'' May God persuade you altogether! If you doubt the truth of what we have asserted, we appeal to Christ himself. Hear him. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls; for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Do you love pleasure? I know you do. Seek it, then, in Christ's way, and not in the ways of sin. There is nothing in religion that is really irksome and unpleasant. Even that which seems to be so—as repentance, self-denial, and the mortification of sin, is rendered easy by the grace of God. And were it not so, what are the pains of a moment to the pains of eternity?
"Who would not give a trifle to prevent
What he would give a thousand worlds to cure?"
But the fact is, that there is far more pleasure in religion now, than there is in sin; and we are sure that it will end better. What will it avail any of