« ПредишнаНапред »
PHILIPPIANS iv. 4.
REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAY: AND AGAIN I SAY, REJOICE.
MONG the many expedients put in practice by the enemies of our Religion, to obftruct its progress, and to counteract its influence, it is no uncommon one, to set before the eyes of mankind a most frightful picture of Christianity, and to represent it as a ftern, auftere, uncomfortable, gloomy religion, adverfe to all the innocent enjoyments of life, and to all the natural defires and propenfities of the human mind. As a proof of this, we are referred to those injunctions of mortification and felf-denial, of penitence, contrition and remorse, of abftinence from pleasure and enmity to the world, which occur fometimes in the facred writings; and to those seasons, VOL. II. which
which, in conformity to the spirit of such injunctions, have, by the authority of particular churches, been fet apart for the purposes of retirement and abftinence, recollection and devotion. That precepts of this import are to be found in the Gospel, and that they carry with them fome appearance of rigour, we do not deny. But it requires only a very small fhare of difcernment to perceive, and of candour to acknowledge, that this is nothing more than appearance. It is very true, it is not to be dissembled; the Gospel does most certainly require us to renounce fome things, which the man of the world may not be very willing to part with. But what are these things? They are thofe lufts which war against the foul: they are those selfish defires, which contract, and narrow, and harden the heart: they are thofe hateful and turbulent paffions, which fill the mind with disquiet, and the world with disorder: they are those predominant vices and follies, thofe dangerous and deftructive amusements, which deftroy all compofure of mind, all purity of fentiment and dignity of conduct, and plunge us in expence, diffipation, and ruin. Thefe are the things we are required to mortify,
to deny, to fubdue, to repent of, to renounce; and if thefe are the hardships complained of, to these indeed we muft fubmit. But to accuse the Gospel of feverity on this account, would be just as rational and as equitable as to charge the furgeon with cruelty for amputating a gangrened limb, or the phyfician with ill-nature for prescribing a strict regimen and a courfe of fearching medicines to a patient bloated with disease. We have reafon on the contrary to bless the skilful hand, that, by any operations, however painful, by any remedies, however unpalatable, condefcends to preferve or to reftore the health of the foul. The truth is, the very cruelties of Christianity (if they may be called fo) are tender mercies. Far from infpiring gloom and melancholy, or rendering our existence uncomfortable, they are, in fact, the only folid foundation of true chearfulness. Of all men living, thofe are the most wretched and comfortlefs, who are the flaves of their paffions. Slavery of every kind, and this above all others, has a natural tendency to debafe and degrade the foul, and to render it abject, mean, and spiritlefs. And till (as the Gofpel requires)