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as the early dew that paffeth away. As long, therefore, as religion turns its bright fide towards them they rejoice in its light, and walk in the brightness thereof: but as foon as clouds and storms appear, as foon as dangers, difficulties, and temptations arise, they are then difcouraged from their holy pro feffion, and, like the young man described in the Gospel," go away from it forrowful."
The reafon of this defection our Saviour declares to be, because they had no root in themselves; their religion was never firmly fettled in them; they had never confidered it thoroughly and in every point of view: they beheld only its bright fide, its privileges, its rewards, its promises and comforts; they never thought of those troubles, difcouragements and afflictions, which will fometimes fall to the lot of the best men, and, therefore, were unable to bear their rude fhocks: they forgot that the Captain of their falvation was made perfect through sufferings, and that the servant had no right to expect better treatment than his mafter having not, therefore, fufficient depth of earth to fupport and nourish them, when affaulted by the rough
rough blasts of trial, and the chilling rigours of adverfity, they foon withered away, because they lacked moisture.
To the fame unhappy cause we may justly afcribe that fluctuation and variety of opinions, both in facred and prophane matters,, which are at once fo much the characteristics and difgrace of the prefent age. Men of warm tempers and fhallow judgments, who, like the ftony foil, have heat without depth of earth, are easily carried about with every wind of doctrine, and the cunning craftinefs of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. Hence our religious creed, which should be as fixed and immutable as the God who is the object of it, is as various and mutable as our political one, whilft one is of Paul, another of Cephas, and another of Apollos. For fo long as men are not firmly rooted and grounded in the truth, they will naturally be ready to catch at every phantom of novelty, and to follow every theological teacher, who has impudence enough to boast, like other empirics, that he alone poffeffes the arcanum of falvation,
The last fort of unprofitable hearers defcribed by our Saviour are thofe, in whom the truths of religion are ftifled and fuppreffed by the cares, and riches, and pleasures of life; by the unlawful defires of our hearts after things forbidden and finful, or, by our immoderate perfuit even of what is in itself lawful and innocent. It is one great proof of the depravation of our nature, and of its being fallen from its first excellency, that it is ever ready to prefer the grofs and baser pleasures of the fenfes, to those more noble and fublime contemplations, which may be drawn from a right cultivation of the mentaľ powers. Man feems to have partaken of that curse, which was inflicted on the earth for his fake, that it should bring forth thorns and thistles, what is noxious and difgraceful, instead of what is profitable and honourable. Hence his mind is ever pre-occupied by a train of groveling paffions, which either prevent the admittance of religious truth, or stifle it in its growth for a love of God and a love of the world can never flourish in the fame foil. And the more men immerse themselves in the cares of the world, the deeper they drink of the circean cup of pleasure, the more in
fenfible they will become to all the motives of religion, and the powers of the world to come; till, at length, time and habit have brought them into a deadly ftupefaction, from which nothing can wake them but the ter rors of death, or the trumpet of the archangel, and the prospect of the throne of judg
Since then the cares and pleasures of the world will infallibly choke the word and make it unfruitful, and fince that unfruitfulnefs will as infallibly bring on eternal death, it is certainly our intereft to pay lefs regard to the world and more to our fouls; remembering that the whole world itself would be but an ill exchange for our fouls. We need not, however, as fome have done, carry our contempt of the business or pleasures of life fo far, as either gloomily to retire from them to deserts and folitudes, or to think that they can have no relish with virtuous and pious men. Such four and rigid notions carry with them an appearance of fuperior holiness, and a more exalted strain of chriftian perfection; and, therefore, fometimes ferve to cover the designs of artful men, and at all times to capVOL. II. Z tivate
tivate the minds of the credulous and igno rant: but I will be bold to fay, that as on the one hand they discourage men from the fervice of God, which is the most perfect freedom, fo on the other, they have no foundation either in the letter or in the fpirit of Christianity, when rightly understood; which, even in its feverest precepts, addressed to Christians under perfecution and torments, no where forbids the use, though it wisely regulates and restrains the abuse of innocent pleasures. And as little foundation have fuch fplenetic notions in the great law of sense and reafon. For furely the God that made the world, never spent so much time and care in forming and adorning it, and in furnishing it with every thing neceffary for use and pleafure, that they who were made by him to inhabit it, should either contumaciously defpife or fullenly reject his proffered bounties. Nor, again, did God ever intend, that ambition, emulation, and appetite should ever be wanting in the best of men, so long as the world lafts; which, under due regulations, are not only laudable but absolutely neceffary for the movement of the great machine of the universe. It will be enough for us so to