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S E R M O N
Hindrances of religion.
[From Dr. OWTRAM.]
2 Cor. iv. 18. We look not at the things which are seen,
but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. T HESE words are fpoken of our state
i as it ought to be, and not as what it really is. The truly religious man looketh forward unto the rewards and joys of another world, and in prospect thereof disregardeth the events of all temporal things here below. And we should all do so, were we not hindered by divers worldly occurrences and considerations; the removal of which shall be the subject of my present discourse.
One thing, and the first, which hinders our attending to the eternal concerns of the other world, is this; That we are early ac
customed customed to live the contrary life of worldliness and sensuality. There and thence we begin to live; it is long before we arrive to any considerable use of our reason, and longer still before we attain to any measures of religion. We do at first judge of all things by the feeing of the eye, and the hearing of the ear, and by the notices of our bodily senses ; and we are fallen so far down the hill before we are aware, that it is very hard ever to return back again.
All thofe things that feed and flatter out senses, they are of ready, easy precepts ; we need take no pains to see what is pleafant, nor to taste that which is sweet, nor to hear that which is delightful : It costs us no labour at all, to be inclined to pride, and ease, and sensuality : It is not matter of difficulty to us, to love that which gives us pleasure, and to hate that which creates uneasiness to us. Whence it comes to pass, that we sink deep into the life of sensuality, very early in our youth, before we are well aware of our greatest duties and concernments; and being engaged by nature, and instituted by custom at first to live by sense,
we find it very difficult afterwards to live at any other rate.
We find it very disgustful to us, to deny our senses any thing they have been accustomed to enjoy. It is hard to starve an inordinate appetite; it is difficult to restrain an urgent desire; we cannot easily forego the acquaintance of our master-delights, nor frown upon the temptations that flatter us, and that have formerly ministred pleasure unto us : Hence it is that Solomon advises, that a child Mould be trained up in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it. And it is required, to remember our creator in the days of our youth; which differs not from the apostle's fenfe, where we are commanded to flee youthful lufts. Every man is naturally a stranger to spiritual things, for the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God. But much more are they estranged from these things, and with greatest difficulties are they brought to any sense or feeling, any taste and liking of them, who have long lived the life of worldliness and sensuality.
little to the concerns of the other world, and why the things which are not seen have fa little influence upon us, is this ; That in this life we go beyond and besides the measures of God's promises : And that, both in respect of the things we desire, and of the time we desire them in. In both which regards, we exceed the measures of God's promises, and consequently set our hearts beside the foundation which a truly religious man ought to proceed upon,
We exceed the measure of God's promises in the things we desire, not because God doth not promise that which is sufficient, but because we desire more than enough. God hath not promised wealth and honours, riches and abundance to every man: All men were not born to be great and powerful; we cannot alỊ descend from kings and princes; we cannot all dwell in courts and palaces; noble blood runs but in few channels : If there were no subjects, there would be no kings; nor could there be masters, unless there were servants to make them such. The perfection of the world, the orderly administration of human affairs, do require that there be a great diversity amongst . 199 men. There must be rich and poor, high and low, great and small, rulers and subjects both together, and one as well as another; for perfect equality will bring on a state of disorder and confusion.
Now herein is the excess and error of mens desires; every man would be great, every man would be rich, honourable, and noble; every man would possess the greatest estate, the noblest honours, and the highest preferments. Men love to be in the world, like the Pharisees in fynagogues, in the highest rooms. But this is a design which cannot be performed, because it is not promised; and seeing there is in this case no promise from God, there can be no reasonable expectation in man.
Now let every man judge impartially, whether this be not his own condition. Is it not his design to get a great estate? Of this he cannot have'a religious expectation, for it is not promised unto him; food and raiment he may expect, and content also together with them, for thus far God hath promised to supply him, if he be not wanting to himself. But that he shall be as rich as his