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plicable to Christianity, to which it has generally indeed been understood to allude, paints the spirit and tendency of Christ's religion, which is exceedingly peaceable, rather than its effects, which are often in this respect frustrated and overcome by the perverseness of man.
Amongst many causes which occasion the thing we speak of, namely, why the effect of Christianity so frequently does not come up to the intention, is the cause assigned by our Lord himself in the text: “men love darkness rather than light.” Light, he states, is come into the world, yet mankind continue unenlightened ; and why, because men love darkness rather than light. This our Lord lays down as a fact : men love ignorance rather than inquiry; to be without a sense of spiritual things, rather than to search into them; a determined resistance of the thought of religion, rather than any indulgence, or perhaps it ought to be called, intrusion of it. Of this fact, of this observation, experience attests the truth; and irrational as such conduct may seem, the inducement to it, and the motive of it, is not difficult to find out. Ignorance is a great flatterer, a great soother of consciences, an opiate to the souls of men. While we remain in ignorance of the revealed will of God, we shall readily bring ourselves to think, that whatever it be, it must be a law of ease and indulgence to human infirmities; under which name of “human infirmities” we shall include every sensuality to which we are addicted, every sin which we have set our hearts upon, every passion we feel, and every temptation we wish to comply with. The heathen world counted and thought in this manner, because they were ignorant; and many Christians count and think in like manner, because they are ignorant also.
And is not this an inducement to remain in ignorance? The ignorance of the Christian is more voluntary than that of the unenlightened heathen: there is that difference; but the soothing effects of ignorance is the same in both. On this account, when the infidel became a Christian, and began to look into some of the truths and regulations which the Gospel introduces, he felt and found what an awakened Christian will find and feel now, that the law of God is a law of purity; that without holiness no man can see God; that continued sin is unrepented sin; that unrepented sin is an exclusion from heaven; and that this holds of all sins of all kinds. Now, though “ light be come into the world,” if it only serve to make such discoveries as these, no wonder that men, indolent, besotted, corrupted men, “ love darkness rather than light.” No man looking for heaven can continue in any known sin. But is it to find this out that we are to come to the light ? Surely, surely, rather let me remain in darkness. For what must be the consequence of this knowledge? It is no other, nothing less, than to break
ир my plan of happiness—my pleasures, my enjoyments, and my profits. The two first are not such, as I can pretend to say are reconcileable to purity and holiness ; the last carries me occasionally to things which are not strictly just and honest; it carries me occasionally at least, and perhaps regularly. Whilst I was ignorant, I was easy; but this new information brings with it great disturbance. It requires me to change. I must change from the bottom.
Again : As ignorance of the laws of God encourages an opinion of ease and latitude in those laws, which is not true ; so an ignorance of our own religious character will make us at peace with ourselves, and cause us to fondle an opinion, that we are better than we seem to be, or, in reality, than we are. Here, if in any thing, men love darkness rather than light; error without examination, rather than truth with it. For what shall we gain by examination ? Only more and more insight into the deep and numerous corruptions of our hearts, our lives and conversation. Things little thought of, or unthought of altogether ; circumstances unperceived, and slight failings without number, will start up to our view. In the negligent way of life in which we have passed our days, we found some degree of contentment; at least, we were not very unhappy. We judged of ourselves by what we remembered of ourselves; and if any thing troubled our memory of its own accord, it was some black offence, of which in some part of our lives we had been guilty. Recollections such as these can be, we must suppose, but very few with any, except with notorious offenders : with a very great part of those who hear me, it is possible there may be no such things to recollect. That I can allow very well, and believe to be true; and the absence of such recollections keeps up a kind of peace in the soul; but is it a just, well-grounded confidence, which the event will verify ?
Here, then, are two grand inducements for continuing in voluntary ignorance, for loving “ darkness rather than light.” It makes us believe the law of God and Jesus Christ to be more lax than it is; and it makes us believe our own life and character to be better than they are: and these two reasons amount, in many persons, to unconquerable inducements. But let them now call to mind, that no physician who saw his patient at ease would disturb that case, except it were to save his life ; and then undoubtedly he would, if he was true to his trust. In the same manner the careless, negligent, sensual and thoughtless; and not only they, but another description of character, worse, it is to be feared, than they; namely, such as are not forgetful in other things, but in this particular concern of religion do purposely and by design put it from them, cast it out of their thoughts by a positive act of their will. These must be called upon, again and again, to behold their danger, and to view their condition earnestly, and truly, and really.
They are at ease in their ignorance; but what is ease which ends in perdition? It is beyond all doubt an ease which will become the sorest of all evils, worse than any terror, any disturbance, which inquiry and reflection can produce; and reflection is recommended by an assurance, that it will lead to good. You will allow it possible for a man to be in the wrong way, and not to be thinking of the way he is in; to be entirely careless about it. And how is such a person ever to be brought into the right way, except by opening his eyes, coming to the light, taking up the matter and consideration of religion in earnest, and with seriousness. It is utterly necessary that something should be done in order to save his soul, and this must be the beginning of the work. It signifies nothing to allege, that this disposition to religion and to serious reflection is natural to man. This may be allowed to be true, but is nothing to the purpose ; for the question is really come to this, whether our souls are to perish, or this disinclination, whether natural or not, be got the better of.
One would suppose that light was always more grateful than darkness, knowledge than ignorance : but our Saviour knew it to be otherwise ; he knew what was in man; he knew, that though lost and bewildered, though not seeking their way, but going on unconcerned, and not knowing whither, by reason of the darkness which surrounded them, yet they would turn away from that light which alone could guide them in safety ;—that if they could obtain for themselves any thing like ease, though it were only that false ease which results from inconsider