Page images
PDF
EPUB

other

in the most simple states of society-savage life, of the sluggard left to themselves, yield nothing overrun with indolence, and utterly averse to any save weeds, thorns, and thistles; but apply exertion, unless some strong appetite calls for its industry, and forth with they wave with golden exercise. So it is of men in more civilized society; corn, and he that tilleth his land has plenty of as soon as they are released from the conflict with bread.' In harmony with this, the earth itself, the world, which business or condition may and sun, moon, and stars, are not stationary—they demand, they sink into indolence and self-indul- are the subjects of unwearied motion—of ceaseless gence. Indeed the hope of realizing these for the beneficial revolutions. Rising to their great Auevening of life, is often one of the prompting thor and Sustainer, how active is the providence motives of their temporary activity. Even reli- of God! “He worketh hitherto, and his workgious men are far from being free from such ing forms no breach of the sabbath rest. When temptations—they frequently yield to them. Not to upon earth, and now that He is in heaven, how refer to the sloth of the convent or the monastery energetic and unwearied the labours of the Son in popish countries, how often are Christians dis

--and how powerful and ceaseless the operations posed to retire from the warfare of the great of the Spirit! How untiring also the service of world into a little circle of their own, where they the angels and archangels around the throne! And meet with no contradiction—are respected, and when all above, beneath, around, in heaven, and indulged, and indolently pursue their own tastes in earth, are full of motion, shall redeemed man and likings. This may apply to Christians, in alone be idle? the middle and higher ranks of life; and even In accordance with the sentiments before us, we among those who are compelled to labour for are informed, that the hand of the diligent not only their daily bread, how much sloth is seen even in maketh rich, but shall bear rule; that the man religious duties—in reading the word—and in who is diligent in business shall stand before prayer: how little pains are employed to shut kings. The patriarchs were active in business, and out the world, and to fix the attention on the though holy men, with what wealth and honour exercise in which they are engaged. What care- did God enrich them! And in how many lessness in reading the word! How little self- cases has He, in all ages, fulfilled his promise? denying study and effort to understand it as com- Let Christians then be exhorted to industry in pared with many other books! What roving of all their callings, whether secular or religious. the mind in prayer! how easily is it disturbed Industry in the things of the world may indeed with any new circumstance, or supposed engage- be carried too far. It may pass into lasting to ment, so that the words are little better than a be rich, which is destructive. It must therefore form!

ever be kept in subordination to God, and the It is well for all, and especially Christians, to soul, and salvation; but within these limits it is bear in mind, that all our powers of body, soul, most important, favourable alike to outward, and mind, are capable of activity, and were evi- mental, and spiritual health; while in all circumdently designed for unwearied exercise. Even in stances and situations, its opposite is an unmithe state of innocence our first father Adam was tigated evil, the parent of various temptations to dress the garden and keep it; and if this was and criines—fatal both to pure morals and spiritdesirable and obligatory, then, how much more ual religion. Let us view sloth not only as an important is labour now in a state of temptation evil—the friend of savage life, with its ignorance

, and sin. The fourth commandment says, "six degradation, helplessness, and woe, but as sin days shalt thou labour. The government of against God—a violation of the great law of God is evidently founded upon the principle of nature_ingratitude for the active powers and labour. Men do not succeed in this world by capacities with which we have been favouredsloth--by indolently doing nothing, but by indus- one of the iniquities which brought down upon try, and not fits and starts of industry, which Sodom the wrath of Heaven. Let us shun its would be injurious both to mind and morals—by earliest snares—let us resist its first temptations. intoxicating with success—but by slow and steady And among these let us specially number bad application, often without much intellectual company. The same wisdom of God which cnergy. All nature testifies to the same great assured the industrious man of plenty, declares, law. God speaks to the sluggard through the but he that followeth vain persons, shall have ant, whose ways he exhorts him to consider, and poverty enough.' Vain persons are evidently irrebe wise without guide, overseer, or ruler, pro-ligious men, indolent schemers, seditious censurers viding her meat in summer, and gathering her of government--those who will not work themfuod in harvest. The fields, too, like the garden selves, and who lay all the blame of their misery upon the rulers of the nation. Such persons, systems of the world may, with some excepit is said, shall have poverty enough. There tions, encourage it. Indeed, this is one of their are always not a few of this description of grand charms, to the natural man, but it is character. While they live they are the victims otherwise with the religion of God. Under all of discontent and the demagogue, and are ready dispensations, it is the religion of restraint upon for deeds of spoliation and murder; but they the lower appetites and propensities of our soon become exposed to disease, and seldom live nature. It aims at bringing man up to a holy, long. Now it is said that he who followeth spiritual, and heavenly character, and in order after such persons, shall have poverty enough. to this, it is essential that he deny and mortify Nothing else could be expected. A man shares the merely sensual. There is indeed a degree of in the fate of the companions he chooses. If the pleasure connected with the senses, which the companions of the wise are safe and honoured, law of God approves: and this is a testimony to they who follow the irreligious and slothful His condescending kindness. For instance, He shall have their award. How certainly are evil has made the use of food pleasant. He might companionships the sources of ruin. The bitter have provided that it should answer its end shipwreck of early hopes—the broken hearts of without any accompanying enjoyment. True parents—the prison, the scaffold, are witnesses religion gives no countenance to the self-imposed to the solemn truth, and the present is no excep- sufferings of self-righteousness. It sanctions a tion to the rule, the companion of fools shall be lawful and thankful use of God's gifts; but it destroyed. Let us ever remember that the encourages self-denial as an important virtue and society of God, the friendship of Christ, the mean of spiritual good, and calls upon Christians companionship of the faithful, form the noblest to be moderate in their use even of things in security of industry, and the best protection themselves lawful. against the idle and injurious, and all who would It is scarcely necessary to refer to passages deteriorate its blessings.

of scripture condemnatory of the love of animal pleasure. It is said, “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and

oil shall not be rich. The heaviest penalty here TWENTY-Fifte DAY.-EVENING. is simply poverty, and though brought on in the

most painful way-excess and dissipation-many He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man ; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich may still think it by no means intolerable. But

much more than outward poverty is included Prov. xxi. 17.

in the punishment. There is poverty of soulMost

persons readily understand what is meant poverty as to God and eternity. The apostle by the love of pleasure. It consists in the Paul says of the persons who make their belly indulgence of the senses, the appetites and pas- their god, that their end is destruction. And nions of the body, and those tastes of the mind yet, is it not to be feared, that not merely the which border upon and minister to them. It is worldly who mind earthly things, but that opposed to restraint, self-denial, and to what many Christians, professed and real, scarcely savours of the spiritual and divine. In short, it know what self-denial means? They seem to consists in the indulgence of that part of our think that if they have the pecuniary resources, fature which is common to us with the lower and abstain from what is directly sinful, they creatures, or which is allied to it. Philosophers may indulge their fleshly tastes as they pleaseand moralists, even in pagan countries, have spend their time in unnecessary sleep, or frivocounselled against this self-indulgence. They see lous reading, or the pursuit of the fine artsthat, besides involving in many outward evils, without any one having a right to find fault. Is poverty and crime--it relaxes the tone of the not this much to be deplored? Is it not at mind, weakens the moral sense, and obliterates variance with the mind and will of God? Is it the grand distinctions between man and the not injurious to spiritual character and usefulbrutes. Hence many of them, under such im- ness? Does it not rob us of many precious pressions, have denied themselves to the plea- hours and opportunities, and unfit the mind for sures of sense, and exercised a mental self- turning to advantage those which remain? Does control, such as is fitted to make not a few it not in effect convert the free grace of the gospel Christians ashamed of themselves.

into licentiousness?—spending an easy self-indulAs might have been expected, true religion gent life, because Christ has died for the guilty, forbids the love of pleasure. The false religious and we are not called upon to seek for heaven

sities may be best overcome. If the eye be and to walk together in love, as Christ had the inlet to so serious sin—a sin which shall des- loved them,' exhorts, as an indispensable step to troy the soul—let us be on our guard against all this course, and indeed a part of it, to shun those outward excitements which may lead to its whatever savoured of unchastity. Nothing could commission. Peter speaks of some whose eyes be more fatal to an imitation of God, or to walkare full of adultery, and Job speaks of having ing in brotherly love. The language is remarkamade a covenant with his

eyes. Let us be bly comprehensive and strong. “But fornicawatchful against all that would suggest evil tion,' says he: not merely higher crimes, but thoughts, or words, or lead to licentious deeds, the simplest form of the sin, and all uncleanwhether in ourselves or in others. Let us be ness,' whatever its nature or degree, or covetwatchful against all in dress, or attitude, or ges- ousness, selfish—inordinate desire, whatever its ture—all in books, or prints, or sculpture-all in kind; let it not once be named among you, as poetry, and music, and song—all in the dance, becometh saints. So far from being practised and or the stage, that even in a remote degree con- spoken of with pleasure-treated as a matter of duces to light views of unchastity. Let us also indifference--let it not so much as once be even beware of any excess in food, or in drink, which named among you, and that because it is not would blunt the conscience and relax the spiritual merely criminal in itself, but is utterly unbevigilance of the soul. The men of the world coming, and inconsistent with, the character of may laugh at these precautions, but such will saints—the holy family of God. And not satisnot be the judgment of high moral, and much more fied even with this most comprehensive counsel, Christian principle.

he adds, neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, And the better to enable us to pursue this nor jesting, which are not convenient (or becomcourse, let us in all circumstances remember the ing), but rather giving of thanks.'

It is unomnipresence of God, and that his eye sees and chaste thoughts which lead to unchaste words; marks the most secret sins, and that ere long He while again, unchaste words, by a sad re-action, will bring all into judgment. Let us remember deepen and perpetuate the thoughts, and lead to the case of Joseph, who though a young man in corruption in practice. The apostle does not, of a dependent situation, and surrounded with the course, condemn harmless pleasantry and wit, strongest temptations, yet preserved his integrity, which may be subservient to the cause of truth, asking with true principle, "How shall I do this and the vindication of character, as well as innowickedness and sin against God? Let us remem-cent recreation, but to talking and jesting which ber the awful judgments of God against the have an unchaste tendency. licentious and unclean—and that Christ, with all It may seem singular, but there was urhis purity and delicacy of mind, did not shrink gent need for exhortations on these points, even from addressing to them the most distinct and to Christian churches, especially in primitive solemn warnings. Nor let the young especially times. The great mass of the members had forget the apostolic counsel to abstain from come fresh from the moral abominations of heayouthful lusts, which war against the soul. It thenism—from a heathenism, in regard to which, cannot be doubted that multitudes who promised the apostle says of its miserable victims that well, have fallen a prey to the temptations of they were past feeling, and wrought all uncleanlicentiousness—have thus broken the hearts of ness with greediness. The Christians of Ephetheir parents-blasted all the hopes of honour and sus had been the worshippers of Diana, whose usefulness which they had awakened, and made temple was one of the wonders of the world—but shipwreck of the eternal welfare of the soul. How whose character was notoriously immoral—and as needful then that the Holy Spirit, as the spirit is the object worshipped, so ever must be the of sanctification, should be sought by prayer. character of the worshipper. The apostle Paul

found it necessary to administer the most solemn TWENTY-SECOND DAY.-MORNING.

reproofs to the Christians at Corinth-a city pro

verbial for its profligacy. He informs them, that But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covet- the case of incest, tolerated in their communion,

ousness, let it not be once named among you, as surpassed the proceedings of heathenism, and yet becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish he said that on visiting them anew, he expected talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient; to be humbled and cast down, on account of but rather giving of thanks,' Eph. v. 3, 4.

many of them who had sinned, and who had not Paul writing to his Ephesian converts, to be repented of the uncleanness, and fornication, 'followers' or imitators of God as dear children, and lasciviousness, which they had committed.

This shows how strong were the temptations ness into union with the holiest benevolence and to such crimes in apostolic times ; they were brotherly love: and besides it exposes the Chrissimilar to temptations to the same sins in the tian church to the scorn and contempt of those newly formed Christian churches of the South men of the world who are pure in their morals. seas, or the West India islands, at the present Let Christians then, as individuals, families, and day. Nor have such exhortations been uncalled churches, flee all that savours of uncleanness, for in the Christian church generally, in all sub- whether in word or deed—let it not be so much sequent times. Not to refer to the breaches of as once named among them. Let them rememthe seventh commandment, which the apostle, ber their professed character-their connection doubtless, foresaw, in connection with the celi- with Christ and the Holy Spirit. So far from bacy and confessional, the convents and the using the tongue to purposes of obscenity, let nunneries of the apostate church of Rome, such them rather devote it to thanksgiving and praise offences have always constituted too large a part to the restraining grace of God, which preserves of the discipline of the Christian church.

them from the sin and woe of licentiousness. It is surely not necessary to say any thing of the gross inconsistency between the offences of which the apostle speaks, and a profession of Christianity. What can be more at variance with TWENTY-SECOND DAY.-EVENING. the spirit, conversation, and conduct of the Lord Jesus Christ? Such sins may suit well enough with

· Let no corrupt communication proceed out of the character of the men of the world. They

your mouth, but that which is good to the use of may not exclude from the favour even of what

edifying, that it may minister grace unto the is called good society, but they are at war

hearers,' Eph. iv. 29. with every pretension to true piety, and ought It is apprehended that few, even of the intellinot only to exclude from the communion of the gent and Christian members of society, consider, church, but the recognition and friendship of as they ought, the vast importance and responsiChristian men, in the more private relations of bility attached to the use of articulate speech. life. Paul writing to Christians solemnly says, So long as a man is silent, the good or the evil is 'If any man defile the temple of God, him confined to his own breast-others cannot be shall God destroy.' The temple of God is the affected by it; but the moment he speaks, it Christian church; and whosoever pollutes it with ceases to be his own; the words, with the sentisins of licentiousness, shall suffer under the wrath ment which they convey, pass from under his of God. "The body,' says he, of Christians is control. He knows not into what other minds 'not for fornication, but for the Lord.' It is not and hearts they may be transmitted. This only for the service of sin. It is fitted and designed he knows, that they may pass from individual to for the service of God and of holiness. Know individual, from family to family; nay, from one Fe not,' he adds, that your bodies are the mem- generation to another, and in their influence bers of Christ.' It is the high privilege of Chris-only cease to act with the day of final judgment. tians, that they are made one with Christ their What a solemn thought, that a man may be doing Surety, so as to become members of his body, irreparable mischief, long after his spirit has he being the Head. Now it is asked, “Shall passed to its award, and his body has mouldered I make them the members of a harlot?' One into dust! It is pleasant to think, on the other cannot conceive any thing more unutterably hand, that good, whether by poetry, or prose, or shocking, than turning the body of our blessed tradition, is as capable of transmission and perLord to the wretched purposes of sin. But petuity. Under the head of "corrupt communievery Christian who yields up his body to cation,' rather classes of sins, than particular such sins, does in effect convert the body of offences, seem to be comprehended. We may Christ into the members of sin ; for he that is interpret it as cautioning Christians against all joined to a harlot, is one body with her. What blasphemy and profaneness as regards God, or Christian does not shudder at the thought? any thing which is His—all falsehood and perHow inconsistent with devotion—with seeking jury—in short, breaches of the ninth commandto promote the honour of Christ, and the salva- ment, in their endless variety; all flattery, taletion of souls, are unchaste character and conver-bearing, whispering, reproach, railing, reviling, sation! We cannot conceive any thing more backbiting, slandering, as regards our fellowabhorrent to the morality of the gospel. It men, and fellow-Christians: and all obscene and not only brings intense, but degrading selfish-I unchaste words and jests, and vain and idlo

talking, and rash judgment, and unprofitable | be able honestly to ask God's blessing. A pious speech, as regards ourselves. No sins are more man who is watching for opportunities of good, frequently or solemnly condemned both through may by well-timed and well-turned conversation out the Old and New Testaments.

not only prevent mischief, but by first recomSurely it is not necessary to say any thing of mending his own intelligence and good sense may the danger of evil communications. Proverbially afterwards communicate salutary moral impresthey corrupt good manners. What multitudes of sions of lasting value to his hearers, especially the the young, made miserable for life, can bear witness young. In order to this he will always speak of to the injury which they have received from false God with reverence and awe, where it is necessary teachers, ungodly masters, sinful companions ! to mention His name; with prudence, candour, and Armed, too, with sympathy and apparent earnest- tenderness, where it is proper to speak of others; ness, how powerful is speech, whether in the and with uniform modesty, and sobriety, when he hands of the orator, or the demagogue, for evil. feels called on to speak of himself. Did man simply cease to deal in corrupt conver- Let Christians now, when the means and sation, how much time would be redeemed; what opportunities of social intercourse are daily multiincentives to sin would be escaped ; how much plying, and so much time is necessarily taken up evil would be prevented; what occasions and op- in conversation, be exhorted carefully to comply portunities would be afforded for lessons in good! with the excellent counsel before us. Putting what

It is worthy of notice, however, that the apos- is directly corrupt out of sight, is it not matter of tle, in addressing Christians, does not content deep regret, when looking back at the close of day; himself with forbidding evil. He exhorts to that professed disciples of Jesus find whole silegood. It is added, but that which is good cessive hours in conversation directed to no good to the use of edifying, that it may minister purpose, but idle, light, frivolous, it may be, illgrace to the hearers. Of course he does not, natured or satirical talk, injurious to the spiritnal by this, mean to forbid cheerfulness and innocent health of their own minds, and to the influence mirth, nor to interfere with the freedom and con- which it should exert over others. Do such nesequent enjoyment of conversation. This were glected opportunities, and misapplied talents, and at war with the happiness of society, which ungrateful treatment of God, involve no crimispeech is so well-fitted and designed to promote. nality? Let Christians faithfully employ their gifts But he condemns all vain, frivolous, trifling con- and advantages. Let them be intelligent, candid, versation which is not fitted to do us or others amiable, sober-minded, communicative, that they good; all idle talkativeness which leaves the mind may be able to make a right and effective use of empty and destitute of just thoughts, and all their articulate speech; and while they do not, by excess in pleasantry otherwise lawful, which is any means, confine themselves to religion, let them irrational and unfits for serious duty. In opposi- not fall into the opposite error of preserving : tion to this he calls Christians to turn the gift of strict silence on all that borders on religion, as if articulate speech to useful account, even to speak it were intended only for the secrecy of the heart, in a wise, rational, entertaining it may be, but or as if men could not speak upon it without still profitable manner. He teaches them that disputing, or as if in the danger of professing too a savour of godliness and of heavenly wisdom, a much, it were better to make no profession at all. desire for the glory of God and the interests of Above all, let them remember the example of piety, should appear in their conversation, and, so the Lord Jesus. What a pattern was he of to speak, tincture their words. Not that it is pure and profitable, yet withal pleasant speech! necessary or desirable to be always speaking What wisdom directed his words! What love to in a manner directly religious, any more than to God, what compassion for men, breathed through be always engnged in the actual worship of God. them all! Let such be the model of the disciples This would be inconsistent with the other duties of life, and mar our usefulness. What Christianity requires, is, that its disciples, in speech and conversation, never indulge in any thing which is at vari- TWENTY-Tird DAY.-MornixG. ance with Christian principle—that they take care

all be pure, rational, calcula more or less to 'Thou art of purer cyes than to behold eril, and be useful, and if possible, that all shall remotely

canst not look on iniquity,' IIab. i. 13. at least have a moral and religious tendency; so Ir is scarcely necessary to refer to the proofs of that on the retrospect they may not have any the divinc holiness; they are to be met with on thing with which to reproach themselves, and may every hand. Jlow impressive is the holiness of

« PreviousContinue »