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seeing that “the grace of Christ is sufficient for us,” and through the aids of his Spirit we can do all things:' yea, "his strength shall be perfected in our weakness." Let every one then address himself to the work: “ Have not I commanded thee? saith the Lord: be strong, therefore, and of a good courage; for the Lord thy God is with thee;" “ Be strong, and let not your hands be weak; for your work shall be rewarded.”]
y Josh. i. 9.
x Gal. v. 16. and Phil. iv, 13.
CCCCII. THE SELF-DECEPTION OF COVETOUS
Ezek. xxxiii. 31, 32. And they come unto thee as the people
cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covet
And lo, thou art unto them as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an intrument: for they hear thy words, but they do them not.
NONE can be religious without appearing so; because religion must of necessity regulate our outward conduct_But persons may appear religious, while they are wholly destitute of vital godliness-Such were they, who talked of the Prophet in their houses, and expressed so much solicitude to hear from him the word of the Lord We
propose to consider 1. The characters here described
[If we look at their profession only, all is well: they unite themselves to the Lord's people, and account themselves to be of their number, They pay great attention to the ordinances; they feel peculiar delight in the ministration of the word; they express a very high regard for those who labour in the word and doctrine; they are not offended even with the most searching discourses; nor are the sons and daughters of pleasure more gratified with musical entertainments, than they
So the word “ against should be read in ver. 30. as the whole context evidertly shews; and it is so rendered in the margin of the Bibles.
are with the fluent, fervent, eloquent harangues of a faithful minister
But, alas! their practice ill accords with their professionIt is amusement rather than real edification that they seek Their hearts are set upon the world, and riveted to their earthly possessions in the pursuit of gain they will be guilty of falsehood and dishonesty; they will commend their goods, when they know them to be bad; they will impose on the ignorance or the necessities of those who deal with them; they will take advantage of the confidence reposed in them to overreach their neighbour; and will condescend to meannesses, of which an honest heathen would be ashamed–They may be generous where their own inclination is strongly concerned, or where a liberal donation will advance their reputation; but at other times they will be as penurious and niggardly as the most unfeeling miser-It may be indeed that a principle of honour keeps them tolerably observant of truth and justice; but they give abundant evidence that their hearts are set upon things below rather than on things above, and shew, that they are more solicitous to be rich in this world, than to be rich towards God
Such there have been in every age; nor are there wanting many such characters among the professors of the present dayb— They hear the duties of a Christian opened and enforced; but they remain as much under the dominion of their lusts as everII. The light in which they are viewed by God
[In their own eyes they are as good as any– Whatever be their besetting sin, they have reasons enough to extenuate and excuse it-Their coveteousness is nothing more than prudence and diligence; their fretfulness and fiery passions are the mere infirmities of nature, the trifling ebullitions of a warm and hasty temper, that are far more than counterbalanced by a proportionable zeal for what is good—When they hear the contrary dispositions recommended from the pulpit, they acknowledge the directions to be exceeding proper; but they scarcely ever feel their own conduct condemned by them -'I'hey are eagle-eyed in spying out the faults of others; but they are almost utter strangers to their own—Their zeal for the gospel, and their attachment to those who preach or profess it, is to them a decisive evidence of their own conversion; and : nothing that God or man can say to the contrary is suffered for one moment to shake their confidence
• The characters of a proud and passionate professor, and of a censorious and uncharitable professor, might here be drawn, as being equally common, and equally hateful.
In the estimation of the church these persons often pass for eminent saints-Their faults are not generally known, and the best construction is put upon all they say or do-Godly men are afraid of judging harshly, and have learned to exercise the “ love that hopeth all things," and that “covereth a multitude of sins"--Hence they give the right hand of fellowship to those who shew a love to the gospel; and, even when they fear that all is not right, they are content to “ let the tares grow up with the wheat till the harvest, lest through their ignorance they should pluck up the wheat with the tares”.
But in the sight of God who searcheth the heart, these men appear in their proper colours-Are they covetous?" he abhors them”.–Are they proud, passionate, contentious? they are actuated by an infernal spirit.—Have they no govern: ment of their tongue ? their religion is vaine--Are they hearers of the word, and not doers of it also? They only deceive their own souls_Are they habitually and allowedly under the dominion of any sin whatever they are children of the devil,s and not of God:"notwithstanding all their pro. fession, they have no part in the gospel salvation, no acceptance in their prayers,k nor any portion but eternal misery in hell! They may have a name to live; but they are really dead before Godm-] INFER
1. How far must they be from a Christian state, who feel no delight in divine ordinances!
[It has already appeared that men may be extremely fond of the offices, the ministers, and the professors of religion, and yet perish for ever for want of that conformity to the divine will, which is essential to the Christian character-How much more then must they be destitute of religion, who have not even the outward appearance of sanctity, but live in an open contempt of God's word and ordinances—Let not any one imagine that the naming the name of Christ is sufficient to constitute us Christians-The tree must be judged of by its fruits: and according to our works will be the sentence that shall be passed upon us in the last day—]
2. What need have the professors of religion to ex, amine well their own hearts!
[Love to the word and people of God, if accompanied with an unreserved obedience to his commandments, is an excellent evidence of our conversion: but, if there be a reigning inconsistency in our conduct, our love to the one or to the other of these is mere hypocrisy"Let us then enquire diligently, and beg of God to try us, whether there be any wickedness practised in our lives, or harboured in our bosoms? -Let us not be content to "honour God with our lips while our hearts are far from him”-Let us rather intreat him to “put truth in our inward parts,” that, while we profess to be interested in the promises, we may“ purify ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God”]
c Ps. X. 3.
d Jam. iii. 14, 15. Jam. i. 22.
8 1 John jii. 8.
e Jam. i. 26.
Matt. xv. 7, 8. Ps. Ixxviii. 34-37. Isaiah lviii. 2, 3. • Ps. cxxxix, 23, 24.
p i Cor. vii. 1.
CCCCIII, THE CONSEQUENCE OF SLOTH. Prov. XX. 4. The sluggard will not plough by reason of the
cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
ARGUMENTS from analogy, when the analogy itself is just, are easy of apprehension, and well calculated to convince the mind: and one distinguished excellence of the book of Proverbs is, that it abounds with such arguments; and without any formal statement of premia ses and conclusions, presents the truth to us in short, sententious aphorisms, that are plain, obvious, incontrovertible. Whoever has made the least observation on human affairs, must have seen the evil consequences of neglecting our proper business in life, whether in husbandry, or trade, or any other line: and it is easy to infer from thence, that, similar consequences must attend a neglect of our Christian duties. Nor is it necessary that this analogy should be always pointed out to us; the whole scope of that divinely inspired book naturally leads us to make a spiritual improvement of the hints, which, in their literal sense, apply only to the things of this life,
Let us then in this view consider I. The sluggard's conduct
The duties both of the husbandman and the Christian require industry
[It was a part of the curse introduced by sin, that man should obtain his bread by the sweat of his brow: nor will the VOL. IV.
carth yield us any thing but briers and thorns, unless we bestow much pains in the cultivation of it. Our attention to it must be unremitted: it is not the labour of a month or a year that will suffice: we must repeat again and again the same processes, in order to guard against the noxious weeds that would overrun it, and cherish the good seed, which we want it to produce. Thus also must the Christian exert himself in order to bring forth the fruits of righteousness. His heart is prolific in what is evil, but barren in what is good: he must therefore daily counteract its natural propensities, and foster the holy desires that have been sown in it. The same work of repentance and faith must be continually renewed, till the Lord him, self shall come to gather in his harvest.]
Yet are we ever ready to neglect our work on frivolous, pretences
[A regard to temporal interest will often overcome men's natural sloth, and excite them to diligence in their several vocations. Yet are there many instances, where the indulgence of sloth makes men blind to their own happiness, and deaf to the cries of their distressed families. With respect to spiritual concerns, an indisposition to labour universally prevails. The work of the soul is irksome and difficult; and every one either deems it altogether unnecessary, or desires to defer it as long as possible. But it is observable that the sluggard does not absolutely say, “I hate my work, and therefore will not do it;" much less does he
“ I am determined never to plow at all:” but he finds some excuse for neglecting what he is averse to perform; and fixes on some plea, which, in certain circumstances, and to a certain extent, might be sufficient. Thus the Christian does not say, “ I hate repentance and faith in Christ; much less does he resolve never to repent and believe: but he always has some reason at hand for deferring this unpleasant work, and promises himself a more convenient season, before the time for plowing be entirely passed away. He has the cares of a family, or a pressure of business, or something that serves him for an excuse: but, upon examination, it will either be found a mere excuse, or a reason, on which he lays a very improper stress; making use of it to justify a total and habitual neglect, when, at the most, it would only account for a partial and occasional omission. But as an husbandman who should yield to such a disposition, is denominated by God himself, “a sluggard,” so we are sure, that he, who on such frivolous pretexts intermits his Christian duties, will receive no better appellation at the day of judgment than that of a “ wicked and slothful servant.”]
But in whomsoever such conduct is found, he will at last have reason to deplore