Page images
PDF
EPUB

piece of incumbrance.-This, I believe, will need no evidence; it is too evidently seen in the open liberties taken every day, in defiance (not to say of religion, but) of decency and common good manners ;-So that it is no uncommon thing to behold vices which, heretofore, were committed only in dark corners, now openly shew their face in broad day, and, ofttimes, with such an air of triumph, as if the party thought he was doing himself honour, or that he thought the deluding an unhappy creature, and the keeping her in a state of guilt, was as necessary a piece of grandeur as the keeping an equipage,--and did him as much credit as any other appendage of his fortune.

If we pass on from the vices to the indecorums of the age (which is a softer name for vices) you will scarce see any thing, in what is called higher life, but what bespeaks a general relaxation of all order and discipline, in which our opinions as well as inanners seem to be set loose from all restraints, -and, in truth, from all serious reflections too ;and one may venture to say, that gaming and ex. travagance to the utter ruin of the greatest estates, -minds dissipated with diversions, and heads giddy with a perpetual rotation of them, are the most general characters to be met with ; and though one would expect that, at least, the more solemn seasons of the year, set apart for the contemplation of Christ's sufferings, should give some check and interruption to them, yet what appearance is there ever amongst us that it is so ? - what one alteration does it make in the course of things ? Is not the doctrine of mortification insulted by the same luxury of entertainments at our tables ?-is not the same order of diversions perpetually returning, and scarce

any thing else thought of ?-does not the same levity in dress, as well as discourse, shew itself in persons of all ages ? I say of all ages, for it is no small aggravation of the corruption of our morals, that age, which, by its authority, was once able to frown youth into sobriety and better manners, and keep them within bounds, seems but too often to lead the way, and, by their unseasonable example, give a countenance to follies and weakness, which youth is but too apt to run into without such a recommendation.-Surely age,—which is but one remove from death, should have nothing about it but what looks like a decent preparation for it.-In purer times it was the case ;-but now,—grey hairs themselves scarce ever appear but in the high mode and flaunting garb of youth-with heads as full of pleasure, and clothes as ridiculously, and as much in the fashion, as the person who wears them is usually grown out of it ;-upon which article give me leave to make a short reflection ; which is this, that, whenever the eldest equal the youngest in the vanity of their dress, there is no reason to be given for it, but that they equal them, if not surpass them, in the vanity of their desires.

But this by the bye.

Though, in truth, the observation falls in with the main intention of this discourse, which is not framed to flatter our follies, or touch them with a light hand, but plainly to point them out ; that, by recalling to your mind what manner of persons we really are, I might better lead you to the apostle's inference, of what manner of persons ye ought to be in all holy. conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God.

[ocr errors]

The apostle, in the concluding verse of this argument, exhorts, that they who look for such things be diligent, that they be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless ;-—and one may conclude with him, that if the hopes or fears, either the reason or the passions of men are to be wrought upon at all, it must be from the force and influence of this awakening consideration in the text - That

all these things shall be dissolved ;"—that this vain and perishable scene must change ; that we, who now tread the stage, must shortly be summon. ed away ;—that we are creatures but of a day, hastening unto the place from whence we shall return no more ;--that, whilst we are here, our conduct and behaviour is minutely observed ;-that there is a Being about our paths and about our beds, whose omniscient eye spies out all our ways, and takes a faithful record of all the passages of our lives ; that these volumes shall be produced and opened, and men shall be judged out of the things that are written in them ;-that, without respect of persons, we shall be made accountable for our thoughts, our words, and actions, to this greatest and best of Beings, before whose judgment-seat we must finally appear, and receive the things done in the body, whether they are good or whether they are bad.

That, to add to the terror of it, this day of the Lord will come upon us like a thief in the night ;of that hour no one knoweth ;--that we are not sure of its being suspended one day or one hour ; or, what is the same case, that we are standing upon the edge of a precipice with nothing but the single thread of human life to hold us up; and that, if we fall unprepared in this thoughtless state, we are lost, and must perish for evermore.

[ocr errors]

What manner of persons we ought to be, upon these principles of our religion, St. Peter has told us, in all holy conversation and godliness ;-and I shall only remind, how different a frame of mind the looking for and hastening unto the coming of God, under such a life, is, from that of spending our days in vanity, and our years in pleasure.

Give me leave, therefore, to conclude, in that inercifui warning, which our Saviour, the Judge himself, hath given us at the close of the same exhortation.

Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this lifu; -and so that day come upon you unawares ;-for as a snare shall it come upon all that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch, therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man : which may God of his mercy grants through Jesus Christ. Amena

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

SERMON XXXI.

ST. PETER'S CHARACTER.

ACTS III. 12.

And when Peter saw it, he answered.unto the people, Ye men of

Israel, why marvel ye at this ? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk ?

THESE words, as the text tells us, were spoken by St. Peter, on the occasion of his miraculous.cure of the lame man, who was laid at the gate of the temple, and (in the beginning of this chapter) had asked an alms of St. Peter and St. John, as they went up together at the hour of prayer ;on whom St. Peter fastening his eyes, as in the 4th verse, and declaring he had no such relief to give him as he .expected, having neither silver nor gold, but that such as he had, the benefit of that divine power which he had received from his Master, he would impart to him, he commands him forth with, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to rise up and walk. And he took him by the hand, and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle-bones received strength; and he leaped up, stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, Jeaping and praising God.

It seems he had been born lame, had passed a whole life of despair, without hopes of ever being restored ;- so that the immediate sense of strength

« PreviousContinue »