« PreviousContinue »
Description of the World.
2 PETER III. II.
Seeing, then, that all these things shall be diffolved,
what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness ? looking and hastening unto the coming of God.
discoursing in this chapter, is the certainty of Christ's coming to judge the world ;- and the words of the text are the moral application he draws from the representation he gives of it,-in which, in answer to the cavils of the scoffers in the latter days, concerning the delay of his coming,—he tells them, that God is not Nack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness, but is long suffering to us ward ;-—that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the beavens Mall pass away with a
great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and the works that are therein, fəall be burnt up. -Seeing then, says he, all these things thall be diffolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness ?- The inference is unavoidable,-at least in theory, however it fails in practice ;-how widely these two differ, I intend to make the fubject of this discourse; and though it is a melancholy comparison, to consider, • what manner of persons we really are,' with what manner of persons we ought to be, yet, as the knowledge of the one is at least one step towards the improvement in the other, the parallel will not be thought to want its use.
Give me leave, therefore, in the first place, to recal to your observations, what kind of world it is we live in, and what manner of persons we really are.
Secondly, and in opposition to this, I shall make use of the apostle's argument, and, from a brief representation of the Christian religion, and the obli
gations it lays upon us, shew, what manner of persons we ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for and hastening unto the coming of the day of God.
Whoever takes a view of the world, will, I fear, be able to discern but very faint marks of this character, either upon the looks or actions of its inhabitants. -Of all the ends and pursuits we are looking for, and hastening unto,—this would be the least suspected,—for, without running into that old declamatory cant upon the wickedness of the age, we may say within the bounds of truth, that there is as little influence from this principle which the apostle lays stress on, and as little sense of religion,-as small a share of virtue (at least as little of the appearance of it) as can be fupposed to exist at all in a country where it is countenanced by the state. –The degeneracy of the times has been the common complaint of many ages :-how much we exceed our forefathers in this, is known alone to that God who trieth
the hearts.-But this we may be allowed to urge in their favour, they studied at least to preserve the appearance of vir-tue ;-public vice was branded with public infamy, and obliged to hide its head in privacy and retirement. The service of God was regularly attended, and religion not exposed to the reproaches of the fcorner.
How the case stands with us at present in each of these particulars, it is grievous to report, and perhaps unacceptable to religion herself; yet as this is a seafon wherein it is fit we should be told of our faults, let us for a moment impartially consider the articles of this charge.
And first, concerning the great article of religion, and the influence it has at present upon the lives and behaviour of the present times ;-concerning which I have said, that, if we are to trust appearances, there is as little as can well be supposed to exist at all in a christian country. -Here I shall spare exclamations, and, avoiding all common-place railing upon the subject, confine myself to facts, such as every one who looks into the world, and makes any observations at all, will vouch for me..
Now whatever are the degrees of real religion amongst us, -whatever they are, the appearances are strong against the charitable side of the question.
If religion is any where to be found, one would think it would be amongst those of the higher rank in life, whose education, and opportunities of knowing its great importance, should have brought them over to its interest, and rendered them as firm in the defence of it, as eminent in its example.—But if you examine the fact, you will almost find it a test of a politer education, and mark of more thining parts, to know nothing, and, indeed, care nothing at all about it :-or, if the subject happens to engage the attention of a few of the more sprightly wits-that it ferves no other purpose, but that of being made merry at, and of being reserved as a standing jest, to enliven discourse, when conversation fickens upon their hands.-