페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

by the apparent wants of those, to whom his instructions are addressed.

It is an especial part of the householder's prudence to take care, that his treasure be laid out on those, who have most need of it. He has enough to do, perhaps, to satisfy the more pressing demands of his domestics ; and the rules of a good ceconomy require that he regard those, before their humourous inclinations, or even their more tolerable necessities. To speak in Jewish ideas, He, that wants a coát, to defend himself from the injuries of the weather, must be supplied with that necessary garment, though he go without a cloak; or, when a piece of bread is called for, it must be administered to the hungry, though others be made to wait for their delicacies of milk and honey; or, a lamb from the fold may be served up at an ordinary feast, while the fatted calf is reserved for some more solemn occasion.

Just thus it is in the dispensation of the word. We apply ourselves, first and principally, to relieve the more importunate demands of our hearers ; and, not being able, at the same time, to provide for all, we prefer the case of those who are starving for the want of necessary

instruction, to that of others who are in a

condition to subsist on what hath already been imparted to them.

Hence it is, that we are most frequent in pressing the fundamental truths of the Gospel : as well knowing, that very many have yet to learn, or at least to digest, the first principles of their religion; and that few, in comparison, are either prepared, or enough disposed, to go on to perfection.

There are those, perhaps, who expect us to clear up some nice point of casuistry, or to lay open to them the grounds and reasons of some obnoxious article in the Christian Creed : in word, they would take it kindly of us, if, dropping the common topics, which have been long and much worn in the service of religion, we provided some fresh ones, for their entertainment; and instead of the stale fragments, which are always at hand, and lie open to all the family, we served up to them something of better taste from the inner rooms of our store-house, where our choicest viands are laid up. All this is extremely well : and in due season, so far as is fitting, the charitable dispenser of God's word will not be wanting to their expectations; for he has gathered nothing, however rare or exquisite, in the course of his household industry, of which he does not wish them to partake. But, for the present, he finds this indulgence to be out of place: he sees, that the plainest duties of life, and the most unquestioned articles of the faith, are, first of all, to be inculcated: he perceives, that numbers want to be put in mind of old practical truths; and perhaps he understands, that even those, who are the most forward to call out for novelties in speculation, do not make this demand with the best grace. He could amuse them, it may be, with a curious theological Lecture: but what if their sense of divine things be dead? what if they want to have their minds stimulated by the admonitions, and their consciences alarmed with the terrors, of the Gospel

a

The question is not put at hazard. For so, the Roman Governor was impatient to hear St. Paul concerning the faith in Christ; when yet the Apostle chose to reason with him of righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come : plain moral topics, such as had often been discussed before him in the schools of philosophy, but were now resumed to good purpose ; for in the end, we are told, Felir trembled.

Even, in the case of those, who may be decent in their lives, who are enough instructed in what is called morality, nay, and would take it ill to be thought wanting in a competent share of religious knowledge, a discourse on the elements of the faith may not be, altogether, unseasonable. For there are, of these, who exclude Religion, from their scheme of morality; or Christianity, from their scheme of religion; or who, professing Christianity, scarce know what Redemption means ; who are yet to learn with what awful, yet filial piety, they are to look up to God the Father ; who reflect not, what transcendant honour is due from them to God the Son; and who have scarce, perhaps, heared, or have little regarded, whether there be any Holy Ghost.

[ocr errors]

If any such attend our assemblies, think not much that we are ready to impart to them the plainest, the commonest, because the most necessary, instruction: and, though we would consult the wants of all, you are not to be surprized, or disgusted, if we run to the relief of those first, who want our assistance most; and, like the good householder, bestow our old things on the needy and indigent, before we expend our new on the curious and delicate; who might, we will say, be better accommo

dated with them, but are not, in the mean time, destitute of what is needful to their spiritual life. But

: III. This care is more especially required of the Christian Scribe, when his charge is exposed, in certain conjunctures, to new and extraordinary wants, which, if not relieved in the instant, may grow to be ruinous, and absolutely fatal : then, above all, he is to consider, not what instruction is most acceptable to his hearers, but what their critical situation demands.

For, here again, the example of the watchful and beneficent householder, is our direction. The season may be uncominonly severe and inclement: or, a dangerous, perhaps a contagious disease, afflicts his family, and then the warmest, although the coarsest, clothing must be sought out for the naked ; and not the most palatable, but the most wholesome food, must be administered to the sick.

Disasters, like these, sometimes befall the houseliold of Christ. A cold atheistic' spirit prevails, and chills the vital principles of all virtue, as well as religion : or a pestilent heresy spreads its venom through the church,

« 이전계속 »