« PreviousContinue »
Happy were it for any young man when he is tempted to despise the admonition of these natural friends to be one of the sort of the Rechabites, or if the words of a greater politician than their father, Jonadab, whose policy I do not mean to question, could always occur to his recollection in such a case, “My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not." (Prov. i. 10.) Attend, O young man,
I beseech thee; and do not conclude every admonition to be vain words, of which thou dost not immediately feel the importance. The class that I have now in view, and would have thee particularly to know and beware of, are not like thy natural friends, but thy unnatural enemies,- for unnatural we must needs account them who cannot spare the simplicity of youth, nor respect its genuine graces:- a special race of evil doers, are they; systematic workers of iniquity, who betray by line and compass, who have sworn in their hearts not to leave an honester man than themselves upon the earth, if they can help it; whose word is, Corrupt or kill—Down with every thing that is uncontaminated! Such a race are they as thy pure imagination could never have prefigured to thee: but thou mayest perceive its reality in time; and the sooner thou perceive it, the better; THAT THOU MAYEST LEARN TO BEWARE OF IT.
Thou shalt perceive, that this unnatural crew have as real an existence upon earth as any corps of spies and emissaries that ever preceded the invader of an earthly state, and paved his way to domination by poisoning the minds of the people, and seducing them from their proper allegiance. Thou shalt perceive them by their obvious and decided cooperation with the enemy in thy heart, and their orderly proceeding in concert with him—first, to make a fool of thee, that they might afterwards make thee miserable. For first the devil tells thee, that thou art something excellent; though he will not tell thee why; because thou hearkenest to him, and exposing to thee the ground of thy fond and fatal partiality for his advice were the way to prevent all this dangerous swelling, and defeat his purpose. But he tells thee that thou art something excellent, leaving thy ingenuity to discover the why and wherefore: as he also permits thee to delight entirely in thyself, and to expect that all the world should bow to thy convenience. Thus he begins with thee: and having prepared thy mind in this manner, and also given it a suitable prepossession in favour of his emissaries or confederates, he will then introduce thee to some of them: who, without knowing themselves to be such, i. e. the devil's emissaries, will know very well what to be about with thee, or any young man of thy ingenuous appearance. Neither are they slow in profiting by the first occasion; but with more avidity than hungry leeches fastening on your skin, will they begin to suck the blood out of the weak side of thee, and tug till thou art ready to faint. Hast thou vavity? thou shalt be all that is fine: who says Thou art not?-Hast thou ambition? Behold thy ready instruments : only say what thou wilt have; “I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses.” Only become one of us, and whatsoever thou wouldest, it shall be done for thee. Or, as their master once had the ignorance to tell his Creator, “All this power (alluding to the kingdoms of the world) will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it,” (Luke iv. 6,)so they, If therefore thou wilt worship us, “all shall be thine.” But if thou wilt not be one of us, (they should add, to make a finish,) nor worship us, we will tell a thousand lies of thee, we will allow thee no merit, and thou shalt be nothing. Yea, verily, (says the secret voice,) and if thou do become one of them, or worship them, or have any thing to do with them, thou shalt be worse than nothing; and nothing, or worse than nothing, shall be thy end.
But thou mayest know by this, Oman of little experience, how every child of Satan hath as much self-love and arrogance as thou hast, and is equally enamoured as thou canst be of himself and his own deformity: indeed he should be more so, to be consistent. And all the sons of the rebel are to be known by this single feature: as St. John says, “In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil." (John I. iii. 10.) It is like father like son: authority and preeminence is their universal object: and if they cannot attain this by rising, because they are lost; they will attempt it by pulling down those who are not lost, and putting them under their feet. This, I promise thee, is the whole secret of their proceedings. So thou mayest assure thyself, that whatever love or friendship these children of the devil shall pretend for thee, there is no reality whatever in any of their pretensions so far. And as for esteem; it is impossible that any should esteem another's worth, who have no criterion in their own. So I would not have thee buoy thyself up too much with the hope of that which thou couldest not have, if it were worth having. For hadst thou an hundred times the worth that thou hast, they would not, could not-give thee credit for thy worth, being such as they are. See, if it do not appear as I tell thee: and if it do not, then say, that he who told thee this was no prophet.
The very idea of their enticing thee is an indication of thy comparative innocence: then hearken not unto them, most fortunate, if thou didst but know it!“ If sinners entice thee, consent thou not." "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.” (Rom. xiv. 22.) Be the offence what it will: be it but the shadow, or the bare possibility of the offence, thou must not consent. If thou know the offence to be such, consent not, because thou knowest it: and if thou have thy doubts about the matter, consent not, until thou be better informed. For “ HE THAT DOUBTETA IS DAMNED IF HE EAT.” (Ib. 23.) Do nothing but what thou art satisfied is right, either in private or in public: so shalt
thou enjoy the blessing of a pure conscience, which is the habitation of God. (Matt. v. 8.)
And regard not the condition of the tempter either in any respect,-in respect neither of his quality, nor of his proximity. For neither of these considerations can change the nature of the offence, or preserve an accomplice from punishment: but whether thou be tempted in the first place, by one of the highest order, or by one of the lowest, it will be just the same for thee, if thou consent. If the very keepers of the law should entice thee to break it,—“ my son, walk not thou in the way with them : refrain thy foot from their path." (Prov. i. 15.) For while their responsibility is greater than ordinary, thine will not be less : their dignity can never change the quality of their actions, though it may render them more conspicuous. And as for proximity; “if thy brother, the son of thy mother; or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thy own soul, entice thee secretly," thou shalt not consent. (Deut. xiii. 6.) Remember, Adam consented to his own wife only: and the offence did cost them Paradise. For vice will be vice; whether it be gilded or plain,-near or afar off: no gilding nor proximity can make it either handsome or safe; but it will be detestable with all the ornaments of rank and splendour; it will be odious in the person of a saint, or of our dearest friend.
And if thou be really worth a crop of nuts, think not too much of thy excellence, when others make thee feel it by a vain competition : but “Give God the praise;" (John ix. 24;) remembering who maketh thee to differ, and that thou hast no advantage that thou didst not receive from him; (Cor. I. iv. 7;) give God the praise of thy talents, and his church the benefit: and then whatsoever path or profession thou shalt follow, thou mayest make it honourable by walking honourably therein. Thou wast not born to be idle; neither hast thou“ entered yet into
thy rest;” whatever thou mayest think of a pleasant commerce in the world and a friendly intercourse with its inhabitants. But “thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt, and the Lord thy God redeemed thee," and brought thee out thence through a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm. (Deut. xv. 15.) And now, behold where thou art, and to whom thou belongest, and to what thou art pledged. To one of thine age all the world is like a great and terrible wilderness full of Anakims and Amorites. Recollect, therefore, thy engagement, which thou hadst almost forgotten ; though thou hadst no right to forget it: for thy success by the way must immediately depend on the efficacy of this engagement; it is the only safeguard, to preserve thy soul from becoming a prey to the enemy. “We receive this person (said your Initiator) into the congregation of Christ's flock : and do sign him with the sign of the cross; in token that hereafter he shall not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified, and manfully to fight under his banner against sin, the world and the devil, and to continue Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto his life's end."
Therefore, thou shalt never walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful. (Ps. i. 1.) Thou shalt not be one of them, nor bow down to them; neither shalt thou proclaim a truce, nor make peace with them, though they press thee
But thou shalt fight with them all the days of thy life; that it may go well with thee hereafter. Acquit thyself like a good soldier of Jesus Christ : and let this be thy encouragement,- that thou art not alone; but all the host of Israel is with thee, and the Lord himself at our head. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths," (Prov. iii. 5, 6.) “That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.
never so sore.