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that even lawful pleasures, when too eagerly pursued become sources of pain, by secretly alienating the heart from God.
Hence serious Christians have need to guard against giving too much of their mind and time to those pursuits which may insensibly draw them off from private devotion, and the daily duties of social life. The acquirements of music and drawing, as well as the prosecution of literary and philosophical studies, are lawful and agreeable, when pursued in subservience to that great end of life so plainly enforced by the Apostle; “ whether ye eat or drink, or whatever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Religion does not forbid the improvement of our intellectual faculties; it only guards us against their abuse.
Lawful things are not always expedient: and if abused or used to excess, they become injurious.
Society is pleasant, - yet it becomes a spare, if it lead us from our secret chamber by its incessant attractions, and thus makes us strangers to our God and our own hearts.
We are every where surrounded with danger. Each pleasure has its poison, and each sweet its snare. And yet how fleeting! Worldly delights resemble the rose which droops almost as soon as gathered. Our blessed Lord warns us against those pleasures which too frequently choke the word, as thorns do the growing plant. The enemy knows this well, and therefore when young people especially, begin to feel their consciences awakened under the faithful preaching of the Gospel, he stirs up their carnal friends to carry them into the various gaieties of life, that the incipient workings of divine grace may be destroyed in the very germ.
O! then let us be upon our guard, not only against
distracting cares, and deceitful riches, but also against delusive pleasures, which by their smiling face and winning form would steal away our hearts and rob us of eternal glory.
Worldly pleasures, like Solomon's many wives, entice the soul to idolatrous attachments, and departure from God. There are however pleasures pure and peaceful, holy and heavenly, which never cloy or injure the believer.
Communion with God in Christ-the enjoyment of the divine favour through faith in the blood of Jesus the varied exercises of reading, meditation, and prayer -- the society of experienced Christians visiting the sick -instructing the young-relieving the poor and needy-pouring the balm of consolation into the troubled breast-directing the wanderer to Jesus— restoring the backslider-reproving the profane-promoting peace--and supporting by active and pecuniary exertions those noble institutions which bless our happy island-form so many streams of pleasure, which at once refresh and fructify the soul.
If to these are added the duties of our calling -the endearments of domestic life-the well-timed relaxations of music, painting, and gardening, with the higher gratifications of mental study ; where, we may ask, is the want of enjoyment to the real Christian? He wants not the vanity of the ball-room; the irritations of the card table; the pollutions of the theatre; the snares of the race-ground; the frivolity of routes; nor the debaucheries of the club.
If poor, he seeks not for the noisy mirth of the alehouse, which ends in rags and misery; he is happy in the bosom of his family, with his Bible and his God.
0! that my thirst may daily increase for the holy enjoyment of pure and undefiled religion.
How insipid are the beasted pleasures of the world, when compared with those soul-reviving delights, which a God of mercy hath provided for the entertainment of Christian pilgrims.
Blessed Jesus! fill my soul with thy presence, and then I shall never want a stream of pure delight, whilst journeying through this barren wilderness to the heavenly Canaan. Let no cares disturb my peace
-no riches inveigle my affections- no pleasures enchain my heart. Like the wise husbandman, do thou in mercy eradicate every noxious thorn, and prepare me by thy Spirit to receive and cherish the good word of thy grace, that I may bring forth fruit a hundred-fold to the glory of thy holy name.
Touch'd by a sense of love divine,
Thy goodness, Lord, I feel;
Of endless joys the seal.
Though round my path a thousand snares
Are laid by Satan's art;
Those traitors of the heart:
Yet still, dear Lord, beneath thy smiles,
A heaven of joy appears;
And hope the prospect cheers.
If through affliction's darksome vale,
I downward bend my way;
To shed their cheering ray.
Or should I mount the dang'rcus steep
Where earthly honours shine;
Shall part my love from thine,
Whate'er I be, or rich, or poor,
I'll trust thy saving name;
To all who love the Lamb.
O! let me taste thy goodness more,
Each moment as it flies;
I see my Saviour face to face,
Without a veil between;
Who say'd my soul from sin.
LI. ON THE PARABLE OF THE RICH MAN AND
The Parables of our Saviour are full of wisdom and beauty. They are intended to convey some great truth, to which the various appendages are in general to be considered, rather as natural accompaniments, than as each requiring a forced or fanciful interpretation. We should therefore endeavour to ascertain what was the primary object which our Lord had in view, when he delivered these exquisitely beautiful lessons on divine truth ; that we may derive that instruction which is inculcated by them.
The parables of the net, containing good and bad fishes ;-of the ten virgins, five of whom were wise and five foolish ;—of the marriage feast, where one guest was found without a wedding garment; of the tares which sprang up amongst the wheat ; of the vine, with fruitful and barren branches; are all designed to shew that in the visible church, the righteous and the wicked will live together, until the general separation at the day of judgment.
The parables of the seed springing up imperceptibly ;-of the grain of mustard seed, growing from the smallest seed, to a great tree ;—of the leaven, secretly working till the whole lump is leavened: beautifully point out the progress of the Gospel throughout the earth.
The parables of the lost sheep; of the lost piece of money; and of the prodigal son ; reveal to us in the most affecting manner, the great love of God in coming to seek and to save that which was lost; the readiness with which he receives returning sinners ; and the joy which angels feel at the salvation of men.
The parables of the great supper, and of the husbandman in the vineyard, most strikingly shew how men in general, and the Jews in particular, to whom our Lord then addressed himself, despise the offers of divine mercy, and persecute the faithful servants of God who speak to them in his name.
The parables of the treasure in the field, and of the pearl of great price, call upon us, from the common feeling of worldly prudence, like the wise merchantman, to part with a smaller possession, for one of superior value; to give up the trifles of time for the glories of eternity.
The parables of the ten pounds, of the talents, and of the sheep and goats, speak directly to the heart; and are calculated to produce the deepest concern respecting that strict account, which we must render of every talent committed to our trust.
The parable of the barren fig-tree exemplifies the divine forbearance through the intercession of Jesus.
The good Samaritan beautifully enforces the extensive duty of loving our neighbour as ourselves.
The unmerciful servant is a faithful picture of the divine compassion, and of man's hard-heartedness and ingratitude.
The unjust judge, by way of contrast, conveys