Page images
PDF
EPUB

6

[ocr errors]

always is and will be reason for men, who would guard the sin: cerity of their hearts, to inquire how far they lean to the world, and court its favors, by the opinions which they embrace and profess under the appearance of religion. Whether your opinion be true or false, yet if you maintain it in compliment to the world, you know your reward; the world must pay you : your Father, who seeth in secret, has no reward for such believers. What the portion of those must be who are resolved, at all adventures, to be well with the world, and to give no offence either to the great or to the wicked by their virtue or religion, our Saviour has plainly told us, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you.'

But farther : times of ease and prosperity, though attended with no other evil, yet naturally abound in vice, and a neglect of the things pertaining to salvation; and it is counted a very wise thing to sit still, and give way to the torrent, and not to create ourselves and others trouble by opposing a general corruption: and perhaps it may be wise. But, I beseech you, is it wisdom towards God, or wisdom towards the world ? Is it seeking that honor which comes from above, or the honor which comes from men ? Can you imagine that the man who has not courage enough to venture a little of his ease and worldly tranquillity by expressing his resentment at the corruptions that surround him, would have resolution enough to expose his life in a day of trial for the sake of the religion which he professes ?

Let us examine ourselves on this head : if we think it an happy choice to sacrifice the honor of God and of religion to a corrupt generation, and to screen ourselves from the indignation of the world by a professed indifference, is it not directly preferring the good will of men to the good will of God? And can we complain if we are left to seek our recompense from the world, whose servants we are ?

In a word; whenever men act in opposition to the truth, or dissemble the truth in compliance with the world ; when they wink at iniquity, and make a way for it to escape with impunity ; when they give credit to vice and irreligion by a professed indifference, and help to establish iniquity by affecting to seem

[ocr errors]

easy and contented under the growth of it; in all these cases, the words of the text belong to them : They receive honor one of another, and seek not the honor which cometh from God only.'

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE XLVIII. .

MARK, CHAP. VIII.-VERSE 38.

The text shown to relate immediately to the times of persecution, and to express the duty of a Christian whenever God's providence may call him to such a trial. This is not our case at present; yet an adulterous and sinful generation has more ways than one of making men ashamed of Christ and of his words : and if the temptation to this crime be now less than in times of affliction, the guilt is greater. In order that men may easily examine their own consciences on this head, and avoid the evil, two inquiries are made : I. into the nature of the crime of being ashamed of Christ and of his words : II. into the several temptations that lead to it.

I. The duty opposed to this crime is expressed in the language of Scripture, by confessing Christ before men ; and therefore to be ashamed of Christ and of his words, is to deny or disown him and his doctrine before men. In this language both parts are expressed in the 10th chapter of St. Matthew. There have not been wanting some, in all times, to justify the prudence of concealing our religious sentiments, and living well with the world. They call on us to remember that religion is internal in the heart, and not on the tongues or in the lips of men; that our virtue and obedience will be estimated by our integrity, and not by outward show and profession; and that, as the world has nothing to do with our hearts, we owe it no account of our religion. To this plea another is added ; that to suppose it necessary for men to own their religious sentiments at the peril of their lives, is making God a very hard master, requiring of us a service of no value to him, at the expense of all that is dear and valuable to us in the world. These excuses are founded in ignorance of the nature of religion, and of the great ends to be served by it. Were we to estimate our religion by the service or benefit done to God, we might part with it all at once; he gets no more by the sincerity of our hearts than by our outward professions : but if it be supposed that there is something in inward sincerity which is agreeable in his sight, and renders men acceptable to him, it must surely be thought that hypocrisy and dissimulation with the world are odious and detestable to him : this point enlarged on. But it may perhaps be asked, how comes it to be necessary for a man to say any thing about his religion? how comes the confession of it to be made a term of salvation in the gospel ? and what right has the world to make any inquiry?

To answer this, we must consider the nature of religion, and the ends proposed to be served by it. When God made us reasonable creatures, he made us capable of knowing and obeying him. The great character in which he appears to us as governor of the world, is one which demands our obedience : religion therefore cannot be merely a secret concern between God and every man's conscience, since it respects him in so public a character; and it is impossible to pay him proper respect and obedience, if we deny him in the face of the world. Moreover, if any religious obedience be due to God, as governor of the world, it must principally consist in promoting the great end of his government: but whoever teaches and encourages men to deny that God is governor of the world, which every one does who refuses to own him as such, does effectually disturb the end of his government. Again, if it be really, as it is, impossible for us to do God any private service, it is very absurd to imagine that religion can consist, or be preserved by any secret belief or opinion, how cordially soever embraced. What thanks can be due to us for silently believing God to be the governor of the world, whilst we openly deny it, and in our actions disclaim it ? Even this principle, which is the foundation of all religion, has nothing of religion in it so long as it is inactive ; much less when we openly deny it, and in words and actions disclaim it: this point enlarged on. Lastly, if it be any part of religion to promote religion and the knowlege of God's truth in the world, it cannot be consistent with our duty to deny our faith; especially when we see how infectious example is.

Hence then we may conclude that it is part of every man's religion to own the faith and hope that is in him ; that it is absurd to rely on a secret faith which is of no use to him who keeps it secret; and whenever such faith is openly contradicted or denied, it may aggravate, but can never atone for the hypocrisy.

Hitherto the argument has been drawn from the nature of religion in general, and the question referred to the denying of God and his truth. The text indeed speaks particularly of being ashamed of Christ and of his word: but to every

believer in Christ and in his words, the arguments already used are directly applicable.

One thing more may be observed, that there are in this, as in other crimes, different degrees : while some were contented to dissemble their acquaintance with Christ, St. Peter openly denied him, and confirmed it with an oath. Among us some openly blaspheme him ; others make a sport of his religion ; and a third sort profess a pleasure in such conversation, though their hearts ache for their iniquity ; but they want courage to rebuke the sin of the scorner. All these are in the number of those who are ashamed of Christ; and to all these it shall be one day said, I know ye not.

II. Inquiry into the temptations which lead men to this crime.

« PreviousContinue »