« ForrigeFortsæt »
themselves most solemnly to all such, " It is high time to awake out of sleep!”
In order to improve the subject a little, let us run a parallel between natural and moral sleep: and first, as to the season in which the body lies chiefly under its influence. “
They that sleep,” says our apostle elsewhere, “ sleep in the night:" so it is with the sinner. It is during the dreary night of nature's darkness, in which the faculties of the soul are fast locked by the soporific powers of sin. Nor can any human effort awake the senseless sinner, till the same voice that raised Lazarus from the grave of death, addresses his conscience with irresistible energy, by saying “Awake, thou that sleepest; and arise from the dead, ard Christ shall give thee life.”
In natural sleep there is, in most, an uncommon propensity to dream. And, is it not so in the moral sense ? What are the pursuits of mankind in general, but so many extravagant, though waking dreams? do they not illude the mind, mislead the judg. ment, and, if the sleepers are not timely awakened, tend to ensure the destruction of the immortal soul? Let one instance, amongst many others, serve to elucidate this solemn fact: Was not the state of the rich man in the gospel a most infatuating dream; who thought there was no higher degree of happiness to be attained, than what consisted in gorgeous apparel, a sumptuous table, and an elegant retinue? But what is the next intelligence we hear of him ? - that“ in Hell he lifted up his eyes!” fatal delusion! Most miserable transition! May the words be im. pressed with all solemnity on the consciences of all modern dreamers about worldly bliss, -" It is high time for you, 0 sinners, to awake out of sleep !"
As dreams are natural to all ages, so it is in the moral sense. The young dream that they shall live a prodigious nunsber of years, enjoy life in all its gratifications, and when they approach to hoary hairs, it will be expedient to bestow a few reflections on futurity; when, perhaps, the seeds of some fell disease are now springing up, and soon will sap the foundation of the young constitution ; laying the fabric low in the dust, from whence it was formed. Therefore, all that can be said respect. ing the prospects and expectations formed in the youthful mind, is, “ Behold, it was a dream!"
Would that these fanciful excursions, called Dreams, were confined to younger minds only! But, when we observe mature age and hoary heads equally exposed to them, what shall we say? When the sensualist dreams that his supreme bappiness consists in the gratifications of depraved appetites ! the pleasure-taker in frequenting operas, theatres, balls, and assemblies! the ambitious in ascending the ladder of fame and honour! and the covetous in augmenting his hoarded treasure! we view them with pity, and would warn them with affection, by saying, “ It is high time to awake out of sleep;” the night (of this present state) is far spent, and the day, the awful day, of eternity is at hand!
Bat the warning originally given, is equally applicable to the professing as to the worldly class of the individuals of mankind ;' and perhaps was primarily addressed to the former. That proa fessors are addicted to slumber, is a truth too obvious to be denied, and deeply to be lamented : --- hence a spirit of watchfulness and prayer are so frequently enjoined in the sacred scriptures. And as this drowsiness arises from various sources, to enumerate a few, may (under divine influence) tend to guard the professing Christain against its insidious attack.
Worldly case and prosperity have a considerable tendency to induce spiritual slumber in the soul. Very few indeed are equally awake to their spiritual and temporal interests. How many have been observed to a walk humbly with their God,” manifesting a sweet savour of the gospel in their Christian conversation, when kept in a state of daily dependence on his providence for a supply of their external wants; who, when raise to outward prosperity or independence, have snak into spiritual drowsiness and inactivity! They, Sampson-like, have slept oni the lap of the Dalilah of worldly prosperity; and, when they awoke, found to their cost, that they had been deprived of their spiritual strength and vigour.
Woridly association is another source of spiritnal slumber in professors. Whilst they are “ walking as becoinetii the gospel," in company with ile “ excellent of the earth,” they find,
as iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend;" and the halloivei fire of divine love on the altar of the heart is brightened theriby. But when there is an unnes cessary coalition with the “ men of the world, whose portion is in this ite," a participation of ilæir enjoyments, and approbation of their manners, - how soon does the sait discover 66 it has lost its sa your !" and, bowever active the professor may appear in the transactions of worldly concerns, it will be evident to a discerning eye, that respecting the things pertaining to the kingdom of God;" the soul is in a drowsy and slumbering state.
Lastly: Anxious solicitude about present things, is' unfriendly to spiritual watchfulness in professors. How many, like Martha, are * careful about
many things,” when the one thing beci, is too much neglected! Instead of living by faith daily for soul and bo'ly, family and concerns, for time and eternity, there is a perpeiual perplexity about temporal affairs, which causes the soul to “ cleave to the dusi,” and proves the source of spiritual drowsiness respecting eternal concerns. Such, surely forget Him who hath said, “ I will never leave thee nor forsake thec;" and again, “ Cast thy burden on the Lord," and he will sustain both thce and it. Add to all this, that a neglect of private prayer and public ordinances, tends to lull the soul into a state of spiritual slumber. Prayer and watchfulness are always XV,
joined in the scripture; and when the former is neglected, the atter is suspended. May all such drowsy souls be roused from their lethargy, and recollect the admonition given to Jonah by a Heathen tongue,“ What meanest thou, sleeper? - arise and call upon thy God!" Piccadilly.
ON A SUNDAY.
But when the public services of the day were over, my thoughts again recurred to the recollection of the unpleasant scenes of ihe morning. What is become of the multitude (I said to myself as I returned froin the house of God) which I beheid going forth “ to sport themselves (as Scripture strongly expresses it) with their own deceivings?” Perhaps, some of them are no more! Awful consideration! Perhaps others, with broken limbs, or sad disasters, are lamenting over their own folly; and, no doubt, a great mass in such a state of druukenness, as to be incapable of thinking at all.
Is it not astonishing that serious considerations on the sin and ruin of such pursuits, should never cross the minds of men of this description! It is indeed easy to conceive that, during the heyday of folly, and while the delirium remains, there can be but little time for reflection ; - but one might be led to hope that, when the effervescence of the pleasurable moment had subsided, men could not be prompted to prosecute the same everlasting chace from one Sabbath to another. It is difficult to believe that any, even of the most abandoned Sabbath-breakers, can have his mind so hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin, as cordially to approve what he is nevertheless perpetually pursuing. Suppose the question were proposed to bim at the cool of the evening, and he were asked, Whether the day had been spent by him in such a manner as, upon due reflection, he could wish it to have been? -- whether it meets his perfect approbation:and whether he supposeth that God approves of it also ?
As these thoughts occupied my mind, the turnpike- gate, which I had seen in the morning, opened again to my view, and the multiíude were as numerous as ever. I felt a disposition to go towarıls it. Perhaps an opportunity may present itself of being useful. It is possible that one or another of the thoughtless throng may bave a mind open to conviction. The idea p'eased me, and I determined to make the experiment. With finis vicw, I turned aside from the street which led to my home, and crossed to the gale. To a mind unaccustomed io wbat passeth in the world on a Sabbath when the day is fine, what
astonishiment would be excited were he to come forth amidst the búsy pleasure-pursuing multitude ! The imagination indeed is not sufficiently capacious to form an adequate conception of the various scenes which present themselves in every direction. As I passed on, mine eyes and cars were made continued purveyors of evil. Apple-stalls in the open road, children of all ages, and young men and girls of stouter years, of all descriptions, as much engaged in their pastimes as on the common days of the week. Shops here and there half shut, as if to put a little blush upon it; but in reality to say, We admit of no restraint to our traffic. Troops of scrvants, of both sexes, in the enjoyment of what is called iheir Sunday out; -- and multitudes of higher rank, by way of example, in proof that they kept no Sunday in. The mind sickens in the prospect. Like the patriarch at Gerar; every looker-on, not totally lost to feeling, must make the same reflection as he did : “Surely, the fear of God is not in this place!”
And who shall calculate, in the aggregate, the sum total of Sunday profanation on the more retired paths of it, when we be hold with what unblushing confidence men come forward, in open day-light, as if to tell the world they despise all laws respecting it, both human and divine ? Surely, if the Jew we read of, was counted worthy of stoning, because he had gathered sticks on the Sabbath-day, the character calling himself Christian, can hardly flatter himself that be shall escape with impunity, under a more daring violation of the Lord's Day! Indeed, is not the general disregard of the Sabbath, which the present period abounds with, among the crying sins of the nation, cminently alarming? Doth not this species of transgression erect itself into a more daring form of defiance, as peculiarly directed towards God ? - and may we not hear a voice walking through the land in the public calamities of the awful war in which we have been long involved,
“ Shall I not visit for these things, saith the Lord ? - shall not my soul be avenged of such a nation as this?"
I pause one moment, to congratulate the people at large that there is yet a sced which serve God. And I pause another, to remind the people of God themselves of their happy privileges. Your mercies, in this respect, are incalculable, in whose hearts and in whose bouses the fear of God is. To be kept even from beholding the whirlpool in which the mass are engulphed on those sacred days ; to stand in a place of safety, where the high water-mark of ibeir sin, and destruction cannot rench, and to be exempt from the very circle of temptatio, is an unspeakable blessing, of the extent of which you are not fully aware. "I know indeed that many gracious souls complain of the leanness of ordinances, and of their own barreliness under ihem; but I know also, that those very complaints do, in a great measure, refute then selves for they actually prove, that the desire of the soul is for greater and closer communion with the Lord ; and it will be well for
such to enquire of their own minde, Whether the Lord doth not sometimes throw a damp upon the sweetest ordinances, on pur. pose to teach that it is the Lord of ordinances, and not the ordinance itself, which can truly satisfy the soul? And if means become lest profitable, in order to endear him the more to the heart, surely what seemed a loss, becomes ultimately a gain; and that man is truly taught of God who knows how to spin comfort, even from the entangled and thready fragments of life; which, though they yield not in theniselves profit, become the means of leading to it. In this sense, the least solemn periods of this holy day, though not engaged in divine exercises, minister to good; for they keep from the world, into which it is impossible to go forth without meeting at every step we take, like Jacob's daughter, circumstances to offir violence to the chastity of the soul.
As I prosecuted my path amidst these scenes of general dissipation, distressed with all I saw, and not a gleam of hope from ilie countenances of any I met of being useful, one object, of more than common attraction, caught mine eye, which seemed to wage war with ail the sanctity of the Sabbath : it was one of those modern hoteis vihere the invitation to jollity, that it might not be mistaken, was placed over the door in the most coll. spicuous characters, “ in Ordinary here every Sunday.” Admirable expedient, 1 exclaimed, to ensure success! Sunday, forsooth, must be the day, and every Sunday too! Had such cntertainments been in repute when Bunyan wrote his Pilgrim, they would have made a striking figure in the scenes of his Vanity Fair!
I paused as I read it. Would the gentleness of expostulation (I said to myself) operate upon such minds, were it to be calleu forth? Would any of this description listen to reproof? Alas! would not the glow-worm of resentment rather redden through the whole countenance ? Most likely, lenient measures would lose all efficacy; and to rouse from such a state of conduct, can only be the result of caustic applications ; but, had I the power and opportunity, like the herald of Philip, though on a commission of higher moment than his, I would, morning by morning, cry aloud, through all the chambers of the heart, - What is a man profited if he should gain the whole world and lose his
The evening was now far advanced. It was high time to return from my fruitless expedition; besides, the sacred employments of the day had suffered much by the interruption. I bastened bome, under the impressions of ile happiness of those who have God for their portion, and the enjoyment of his Subbaths, the blessed privilege of his people here below. I recollected what David had said, and I felt the full sweetness of it, 6 Blessed are ibey ihat di well in God's house; they will be stiil
-- ani, if there be a leaven upon carth, it must