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our virtue, or our peace, let us guard against these two evil dispositions of mind. Let us be modest in our esteem, and, by diligence and industry, study to acquire the esteem of others. So shall we shut up the avenues that lead to many a bad passion; and shall learn, in whatsoever state we are, therewith to be content.
Finally, in order to subdue envy, let us bring often into view those religious considerations which regard us particularly as Christians. Let us remember how unworthy we are in the sight of God; and how much the blessings which each of us enjoy, are beyond what we deserve. Let us nourish reverence and submission to that Divine Government, which has appointed to every one such a condition in the world as is fittest for him to possess. Let us recollect how opposite the Christian spirit is to envy; and what sacred obligations it lays upon us, to walk in love and charity towards one another. Indeed, when we reflect on the many miseries which abound in human life; on the scanty proportion of happiness which any man is here allowed to enjoy; on the small difference which the diversity of fortune makes on that scanty proportion; it is surprising that envy should
ever have been a prevalent passion among men, much more that it should have prevailed among Christians. Where so much is suffered in common, little room is left for envy. There is more occasion for pity and sympathy, and inclination to assist each other. To our own good endeavours for rectifying our dispositions, let us not forget to add serious prayers to the Author of our being, that he who made the heart of man, and knows all its infirmities, would thoroughly purify our hearts from a passion so base and so criminal, as en
vy. Create in me, O God, a clean heart; and renew a right spirit Search me,
and know my heart.
Try me, and know my
thoughts. See if there be any wicked way in
me, and lead me in the way everlasting. *
* Ps. li. 10.-cxxxix. 23, 24.
MATTHEW, xx. 6.+
-Why stand ye here all the day idle?
Ir is an observation which naturally occurs, and has been often made, that all the representations of the Christian life in Scripture are taken from active scenes; from carrying on a warfare, running a race, striving to enter in at a strait gate; and, as in this context, labouring in a vineyard. Hence the conclusion plainly follows, that various active duties. are required of the Christian; and that sloth and indolence are inconsistent with his hope
But it has been sometimes supposed, that industry, as far as it is matter of duty, regards our spiritual concerns and employments only; and that one might be very busy as a Christian, who was very idle as a man. Hence, among some denominations of Christians, an opinion has prevailed, that the perfection of religion was to be found in those monastic retreats where every active function of civil life was totally excluded, and the whole time of men filled up with exercises of devotion. They who hold such opinions proceed on the supposition, that religion has little or no concern with the ordinary affairs of the world; that its duties stand apart by themselves, and mingle not in the intercourse which men have with one another. The perfect Christian was imagined to live a sort of angelic life, sequestered from the business or pleasures of this contemptible state. The gospel, on the contrary, represents the religion of Christ, as intended for the benefit of human society. It assumes men as engaged in the business of active life; and directs its exhortations, accordingly, to all ranks and stations; to the magistrate and the subject, to the master and the servant, to the rich and the poor, to them that buy and them that sell, them that use and them that abuse the world. Some duties, indeed, re
quire privacy and retreat. But the most important must be performed in the midst of the world, where we are commanded to shine as lights, and by our good works to glorify our Father which is in heaven. This world, as the context represents it, is God's vineyard, where each of us has a task assigned him to perform. In every station, and at every period of life, labour is required. At the third, the sixth, or the eleventh hour, we are commanded to work, if we would not incur, from the great Lord of the vineyard, this reproof, Why stand ye here all the day idle? We may, I confess, be busy about many things, and yet be found negligent of the One thing needful. We may be very active, and, withal, very ill employed. But though a person may be industrious without being religious, I must at the same time admonish you that no man can be idle without being sinful. This I shall endeavour to shew in the sequel of the discourse; wherein I purpose to reprove a vice which is too common among all ranks of men. Superiors admonish their inferiors, and parents tell their children, that idleness is the mother of every sin; while, in their own practice, they often set the example of what they reprobate severely in others. I shall study to shew, that the idle man is, in every view, both foolish and crimi