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cometh to me I will in nowise cast out." | present we come from scenes of anxiety Christ formed in the heart of a true be- and vexation to keep our solemn feasts; liever, resembles, in some measure, Christ and our wedding garments are stained incarnate in the world. The divine nature with the pollution, or torn by the briers may be obscured for a season; it may, through which we travel. Even amidst and probably will, have its season of hu- our most sublime delights, we are conmiliation; but though it may seem to die, scious of a certain blank in our feelings, yet it shall have its resurrection likewise, which reminds us that this is not our rest; and afterwards its ascension into glory. but in the presence of God there is fulThis it was that enabled Paul to say, “Iness of joy, and at his right hand are therefore run, not as uncertainly; so fight pleasures for evermore. The poor afflicted I, not as one that beateth the air.” Per- broken spirit, which now breathes in trouseverance is not only the duty, but the ble as in its daily air, and scarcely knows privilege also, of all who set themselves any other rule for computing the periods in good earnest to travel for heaven. And of time, than by the revolutions of sorrows though the law of God obliges them, and and disappointments, shall then be tuned their new nature inclines them, to work to the high praises of God; and its love out their own salvation with fear and to him, who is the Lord of love, shall feel trembling, yet they have a far better no bounds, and fear no end. O how the security for their success than any efforts unveiled glory of God will then brighten of their own. Omnipotence is their guar- many a face which is now darkened with dian: “ the eternal God is their refuge, and grief, and stained with tears, and daily underneath them his everlasting arms." wears the hue of melancholy! There is
My brethren, time and strength would not a sorrowful countenance in all the fail me, were I to attempt enumerating all courts of Zion's King; their doubts and the sources of joy which belong to the re- fears have dropped off with the veil of deemed of the Lord. I trust, that in your mortality, and sorrow and sighing have own frequent meditation you revolve fled far away. Lift up your heads, then, them, and that in your frequent addresses ye that travel towards the heavenly Zion, to the throne of grace, you commemorate and rejoice in the hope of the glory of them with thankful hearts before the God God. It is not more certain that the sun and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. doth shine in the firmament, than that ye Do you not then express the joy and grat- shall live for ever in the heavenly Jerusaitude of your souls, for the benefit of lem, and join in the innumerable company your Redeemer's example, for the prom- about the throne, in the everlasting praise ised aids of his Spirit, for the assurance of of your God and Redeemer. Then shall his intercession, for the gracious appoint- you understand the happiness of believers, ment of him as the Judge of the world, and know better than I can tell you, what for the access you now have by him to the God did for your souls, when he called throne of grace, for the means of com- you out of darkness into his marvellous munion with the Father of your spirits, light. and the pleasing fellowship of those who Rejoice then in the Lord always, and are travelling with you in the same road again I say, rejoice. Let it appear, by to the Zion above? Leaving these, then, the serenity of your countenance, and the to be revolved in your own minds, I will alacrity of your steps, that your salvation now only exhort you, in the
is already begun, and that, though the ful5th and last place, To rejoice in the hope ness of your joys be reserved for another of the glory of God. “Fear not, little world, yet even in this you can remark, flock," said the blessed Jesus, " for it is with a satisfaction unknown to the mere your Father's good pleasure to give you sons of earth, how sweet is the face of nathe kingdom.” Ere Iong your trials and ture, how delicious are the fruits of the sufferings shall come to an end, and your field. “Go your way, eat your bread with light aftlictions, which are but for a mo- joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, ment, shall be followed by an exceeding for God now accepteth your work.” Amen. great and eternal weight of glory. At
The case of the Hebrews, as represented SERMON LXXI.
in these words, is by no means singular. The neglect, at least the slow improvement of the means of knowledge, has not
ceased to be a reproach in these latter Hebrews v. 12.-"For when for the time ye days. Although blessed with the most
ought to be teachers, ye have need that one abundant means of becoming wise unto teach you again which be the first principles salvation, how trifling are our attainments, of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong how ill arranged are our religious ideas, meat."
how little established are we in the faith,
and how ill qualified to give a good reason The apostle having, at the 10th verse, of the hope that is in us! Amidst all compared, in general terms, the priesthood these infirmities, how disdainful are we of Jesus with that of Melchisedek, finds often of common truths! how desirous to himself obliged to break off the argu- be gratified with novel speculations ! how ment, not from any defect of his own fantastical in our taste for religious inknowledge, but from the dulness of those struction! I hope I may be allowed to to whom he wrote. Their minds were not offer some observations on these topics, as yet prepared for such sublime instruc- without being supposed to aim at any petion, and that not owing to any natural culiar censure, my sole design being to infirmity, but merely to their neglect or stir you up to further improvements, even misimprovement of the best advantages. to aspire to the wisdom of the perfect, “For when for the time ye ought to be and of those who, by reason of use,
have teachers, ye have need that one teach you their senses exercised to discern both good again which be the first principles of the and evil. oracles of God; and are become such as The text naturally gives rise to the have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” | three following observations: Accordingly, he tells them very plainly I. That all who are favored with the how disgracefully deficient they were in light of the gospel, shall be utterly inex. the improvement which might have been cusable, if their improvements in knowexpected, from the time that they had ledge do not bear a proportion to the time been in the school of Christ. Instead of they have continued to enjoy it. being in a capacity of teaching others, II. That those who are not careful to they were themselves in the lowest class add to their knowledge, will be in great of learners. Instead of making progress danger of losing what they have formerly in the knowledge of divine truth, they had acquired. forgotten what they once possessed. In- III. That without a proper acquaintstead of growing to the stature of perfect ance with the first plain principles of relimen in Christ Jesus, they had shrunk gion, men are unfit to receive doctrines of again to the condition of babes, whose a higher and more speculative nature. weak and tender organs must be nourished These observations I will confirm by with the simplest food. Instead of ex- some reasoning, and then make a practical panding with a regular and solid growth, application of the subject. The opening and enlarging their faculties, I. observation was, That all who are through disuse, had become so contracted favored with the light of the gospel, shall as to refuse admittance to the plainest be utterly inexcusable, if their improvetruths, much more to doctrines so deep ments in knowledge do not bear a proporand involved as those which he had begun tion to the time they have continued to to state. Such is the spirit of the apos- enjoy it. tle's reproof contained in the text: “For This is one of those propositions which when for the time ye ought to be teachers, neither needs, nor will admit of much ye have need that one teach you again positive proof. There cannot be a plainer which be the first principles of the ora- dictate of common sense, than what our cles of God; and are become such as Saviour hath taught us in these words : have need of milk, and not of strong meat." “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him the more shall be required.” Every ad- we expect to become masters of religious vantage bestowed on us by Providence is truth, with less diligence and application a trust, of which we must give an account than we bestow on the most trifling scihereafter. The advantages which tend to ence, or the meanest mechanic art? I our improvement in heavenly wisdom, are mean not that it is either necessary or a trust of the most important kind; and possible for every private Christian to attherefore the guilt of neglecting or abus- tain a thorough knowledge of theology. ing these must be of the deepest nature. The leisure and the capacities of men are But let us hear what may be said in oppo- so different, that an equal progress in disition to this. Every objection that can vine knowledge cannot be supposed in be stated, may be resolved into one or every individual. This much, however, other of these two—either that Christian. may be reasonably required and expected, ity is not worthy of our study; or that, that persons soliciting the outward privifrom its incomprehensible nature, it is im- leges of religion, should know the great possible to make any considerable pro- truths to which these privileges refergress the knowledge of it. To maintain should be able to tell what benefit they the first of these, is in fact to deny the expect from them—should be able to divinity of our holy religion; for certainly show some fruit of all the instructions a revelation proceeding from infinite wis- they receive. Yet how often is even dom, with this merciful intention, to direct this moderate expectation disappointed ? wandering sinners to everlasting and un- How many are there to be found in this speakable felicity, must be allowed to de- land of gospel light, almost as ignorant of serve all the time and attention we can Jesus and his religion, as those who never possibly bestow on it. As to the second heard his name? How deep must be their objection, relating to the mysterious na- shame, how heavy their condemnation, ture of Christianity, it must partly be ad- when at last it shall appear in what man. mitted, but in no sense that will apply to ner their time has been employed ? This the point in question. There are indeed will stop the mouths of all ignorant Chrisdoctrines taught in it far surpassing the tians, and expose their vain apologies, extent of our understandings, which must when their consciences, awakened by the be received with the obedience of faith, dawn of an everlasting day, shall reproach resting on this solid principle of reason, them with the hours, days, and months, in that they are revealed by him who cannot which they fatigued themselves with vice lie. But though there are deep and in- and folly, instead of studying how to bescrutable mysteries in Christianity, it is come wise unto salvation. The far from being mysterious in all its parts. II. observation from the text was, That Its discoveries of the moral character of those who are not careful to add to their God, and of his gracious purposes toward knowledge, are in danger of losing what the human race; its precepts, promises, they have already acquired. and sanctions; and its general influence This was the very case of the Hebrews. upon human conduct, present the noblest They had not been at due pains to increase and most improving subject of contempla- their knowledge, in consequence of which tion, in which the faculties of man can be neglect, they were even decayed in their engaged. In these a well formed mind former attainments. 66 Ye are become will taste a pleasure and satisfaction far such," says the apostle, “as have need of beyond what all the treasures of science milk, and not of strong meat.” He does and philosophy can bestow. It is true, not say, Ye are still in the condition of that even in this study, certain difficulties babes; but ye are returned or shrunk back will at first be experienced; but shall it again to that condition, thereby plainly form an objection to the pursuit of heavenly intimating that there had been a time wisdom, that it bears an analogy to every when the case was otherwise with them improvement of which the human mind is
And as this proposition is well founded susceptible? Where is the valuable ad- in the text, so it is sufficiently supported vantage that is to be acquired without both by reason and experience. Our own patience, method, and application? Shall observation, if we have not been extremely
inattentive, cannot fail to furnish us with pecially if this cannot be done without instances similar to what is here recorded. much labor and attention. Accordingly, The truth is, a comprehensive knowledge it is never supposed in Scripture, that we of the whole, in all its connections, is the should remit our application to make faronly security for the distinct knowledge, ther progress, through a lazy satisfaction or remembrance of any one part. Nothing with our present attainments. No saint is so difficult as to retain the rudiments ever set such an example of indolent selfof any science, unless we pursue them to contentment. "I count all things but their proper use, and discover their sub- loss," said the apostle Paul, “for the exserviency to the general scheme to which cellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus they belong
my Lord; for whom I have suffered the Let a man be introduced to the view of loss of all things, and do count them but a complete piece of machinery, without dung that I may win Christ, and be found being acquainted with the general purpose in him, not having mine own righteousness it is intended to accomplish; let him sur- which is of the law, but that which is vey every part of it with the most minute through the faith of Christ, the righteousattention, and labor to imprint the idea ness which is of God by faith; that I may of each as deeply as possible in his mind; know him, and the power of his resurrecyet if he fall short of comprehending the tion, and the fellowship of his sufferings, intention of the whole, all that he has seen being made conformable unto his death; will be equally useless to himself and to if by any means I might attain unto the mankind." His observations, unconnected resurrection of the dead: not as though I with any leading principle, will float with- had already attained, either were already out method or application in his mind; or perfect; but I follow after, if that I may if they have any effect, it will be only to apprehend that for which also I am appremake him rash and petulant in hazarding hended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I opinions on a subject which he imperfectly count not myself to have apprehended; understands.
but this one thing I do, forgetting those Our pursuit of religious knowledge, things which are behind, and reaching under the disadvantages of our present forth unto those things which are before, dark and degenerate state, may be com- I press toward the mark, for the prize of pared to a person swimming against the the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” current, who has no other way to maintain The his advantage but by pressing forward. III. and last observation from the text Our faculties, by disuse, contract a rust, was, That without a proper acquaintance a disability either for discerning or pursu- with the plain principles of religion, men ing those things that are excellent. Hence are utterly unfit for receiving doctrines of the apostle says, at the 14th verse, a higher and more speculative nature. “Strong meat is for those who, by reason This is the precise argument of the of use, have their senses exercised to dis- text, and needs only to be mentioned to cern between good and evil;” thereby in- force our assent. It is saying nothing timating, that the mind must be kept in more strange, than that a person, in order constant exercise, otherwise we may lose to be able to read, must first know letters; the faculty of distinguishing between a proposition so plain and obvious, that it things the most widely different. But would be ridiculous to attempt a formal this is not all: A person who stops short proof of it. The operations of grace, as in his pursuit of religious truth, plainly well as those of nature, are, for the most discovers that he has lost that relish part, gradual. Miraculous gifts indeed which alone imprints it in deep and last- have been enjoyed, and miraculous proing characters on the mind. It is well gress hath been made in divine knowledge, known how slowly we imbibe, and how beyond what the common use of means quickly we forget, those parts of learning could have produced; but these have been which we study with reluctance. No rare instances for special purposes in Proman will be careful to preserve a matter vidence, and are by no means to be exabout which he is become indifferent, es pected in the common course of things.
If, therefore, we aspire to eminent know- much the more miserable for the neglect ledge in religion, we must begin by culti- of the opportunities which you have envating distinct apprehensions of its first joyed. Let me beseech you to bring this principles. Nothing has been of more home to your minds. In all other subprejudice to Christianity, than the prema-jects, you desire to be well informed. ture indigested reasonings of novices, You would not prostitute your time to a about its more speculative doctrines, be- ceremonial attendance of any other kind, fore they have been well established in without some solid and useful object. its great and fundamental articles. Hence You would not give up four hours in every have arisen all those odious names with week, merely to hear words, without inwhich particular sects have stigmatized tending to derive some instruction from one another, while, in contending for the them. “ Take heed then how ye hear." name of disciples, they have thrown away Be assured we do not speak in vain. Our that badge of charity by which the true defects indeed are many: we do not preach disciples of Christ are most effectually nor live as we ought to do—may God
don and amend us; but we dispense the Justly, then, does the apostle say, that ordinances of God; and his word, though strong meat belongeth only to them who, dispensed by weak unskilful hands, shall by reason of use, have their senses ex- not return void, but shall accomplish the ercised to discern between good and evil. thing whereunto he sent it: it shall either The metaphor is highly proper and sig- be the savor of life unto life, or death nificant; for as strong meat, administered unto death to your souls. to a weak stomach, contributes only to Again, ye have heard that they who are increase its infirmity; in like manner the not careful to add to their knowledge are more difficult doctrines of Christianity, in danger of losing what they had formermeeting with weak presumptuous under. ly acquired. Beware then of resting satisstandings, have no other effect than to fied with your present attainments, but swell the natural vanity of the heart, which follow on to know the Lord. Be assiduous afterwards vents itself in words and beha- to improve the advantages ye possess, for vior, equally dishonorable to God and growing in grace, and in the knowledge offensive to man.
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Having thus endeavored to confirm the that ye may walk worthy of God unto all observations which naturally arise from pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, the text, it remains only to make a prac- and increasing in the knowledge of God tical application of the subject.
---Strengthened with all might, according In this application, the hearers of the to his glorious power; continuing in the gospel seem to have the first and principal faith, grounded and settled, and not moved concern. Ye have enjoyed this advantage from the hope of the gospel which ye have from your earliest years. For the time, heard. ye might have been teachers of others. Once more, Ye have heard that, withLet us suppose that ye had attended as out a proper acquaintance with the plain punctually upon instruction in any other principles of religion, men are unfit to rescience, would you not be ashamed, after ceive doctrines of a higher and more ten or twenty years, to own you were as speculative nature. Expect not, then, ignorant as the first month, and much more that we should study your amusement at ashamed to have it thought that you were the expense of your edification. There contented to be so? Let me ask how you are persons, perhaps, who expect us to would tolerate such carelessness and in discuss some nice points in casuistry, or sensibility in your children, whom you to clear up some controverted points in educate at a great expense for the purposes divinity; in short, who would take it of this world ? Yet how do the cases kindly, if, dropping the common topics differ? Much indeed in one respect; for which have been long and much worn in a man may be happy without human learn the service of religion, we provided some ing, but without the knowledge of religion, fresh ones always for their entertainment. you must be miserable for ever, and so This may be very proper in its season,