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ciples of Jesus Christ. These are the ways by which we are
to express, and gain, and increase, that love for our neighbour
which must qualify us for heaven.

' And, in the last place, with regard to nig own self, God has

[Col. 1.12.] made known to me, what qualifications are necessary to make
me worthy to be partaker of the inheritance with the Saints in
heaven. That I must be humble, for God hateth and resisteth
the proud. I must be chaste, for no unclean person can
enter into heaven. I must be temperate and sober, lest that
day overtake me unawares. That as I hope to follow my
Saviour to heaven, I must deny myself, and take up the
cross ; I must mortify my affections and lusts ; keep under
my body and bring it into subjection ; part with any thing,
. as dear as a right hand or a right eye, rather than do what
will oflPend God, and shut me out of heaven. Lastly, He has
commanded me to watch, to walk circumspectly ; to keep my
heart with all diligence ; because I have an adversary, which,
* like a roaring lion, is continually seeking to ruin me.

'These things I must endeavour to remember, as I love
my soul, and as I hope for heaven; and I must order my

[Matt. 7. life accordingly : for so has Christ expressly told us, " Not
■-' every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into



THJS TRUE WAY OF PllOFlTING BY SERMONS. b3

the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of My
Father which is in heaven." '

This, my christian bretliren, is the way we must take to
profit by sermons upon these important subjects. It is thus
we must endeavour to affect our minds, that we may remem-
ber, that we may never forget, these truths, which concern us
as much as our souls are worth. This being the only way to
be secui'e of a blessed eternity, to be ever and anon asking
ourselves some such short questions as these :

' Why am I afraid of death ? Why do I put the thoughts
of it far from me ? Is it not because I know that I am not
prepared to die ? Have I considered how miserable I shall
be, if death should surprise me either doing evil, or doing
nothing, or doing that which was not my duty to do ? Is it
because I fancy that I have time sufficient before me to pre-
pare for death? But then I forget, that a christian life is
the only sure preparation for death ; and I forget also what
Jesus Christ hath declared, " Thou shalt not know what hour Kev. 3. 3.
I will come upon thee." Is not this the time in which I am
to choose whether I am to be miserable or happy for ever ?
And shall I let this time slip out of my hands ? Do not I
know, that I shall come out of the grave just as I go into it,
either fit for heaven, or fit for no place but hell? Have
not I myself seen many surprised by death when they least
thought of it; and were amazed when they saw that it was
too late to bring forth fruits answerable to amendment of
life ? What, if this uncomfortable case should be my own '/

One would ask further: 'What will this life I lead end
iu ? Will my great Judge approve of this way of spending
my time, my estate, and the other talents He has intrusted
me with ? Can I hope to hear Him say. Well done, good and [Matt. 25.
faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord ? Or will " -J
not the manner of my life oblige Him to say, Thou wicked [Matt. 25.
servant, thou hast done nothing that I commanded thee ? What
is it I am losing my inheritance in heaven for ? For some
poor pleasure ; for some pitiful gain ; or to gratify some filthy .
lust? Can I imagine that the glorious inheritance of the
children of God must cost me no pains, no trouble, to attain
it, when it cost my Saviour His life to purchase it for me ?
Lastly ; let me ask myself that question, which my Saviour



54 THE TRUE AVAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.

S E R M. has put into my mouth, What shall a man give in exchange

'- — for his soul? "What pains ought I not to take, rather than

26.] run the hazard of suffering the bitter pains of eternal death ?

Let these things, christians, enter deep into your hearts ;
do not forget them as soon as you leave the church ; beg of
God to give you grace to profit by them. And be assured of
this, that there is no greater happiness in this life, than to
have reasonable hopes of a blessed eternity : which God grant
we may all have, and that we may meet in peace in the para-
dise of God, for the Lord Jesus' sake.
To Whom, &c.



SERMON V.



THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.



Luke xi. 28.
Blessed are they that hear the Word of God, and keep it. See Levit.

■^ ^ ^ -£ 25.14;

Prov. 3. 9 ;

You have here the Word of Christ for this important truth, i4. 33; 18.
that the preaching of the Gospel, the hearing it with atten- p^. 17. 14';
tion and zeal, and leading a life answerable thereunto, is a jj^^g' ^g.
sure way to blessedness or happiness. Matt- 6. 19,

You know the doom of those who heard the sermons of 14- 16. 9;
Christ, and would not mind them: "It shall" (saith our Ephr4.'28;'
Saviour and Judge), "it shall be more tolerable for Sodom Jq^™-.^- ^'
and Gomorrah in the day of judgment, than for that people." Heb.i3. 5.
By which you see, christians, the great hazard you will run,
if you live under the light and ordinances of the Gospel, and
are not bettered by them.

Our Saviour Himself tells you, who it is that tempts you
to hear the Word with indifference, and to forget what you
hear; to despise the preacher, and the ordinance of God.
He tells you, that it is the devil, that taketh the word out of
the hearts of those that are not careful to keep it, lest they
should believe and be saved.

Lastly ; you may be assured of it, that the Word preached
will become the word of salvation to every one that believeth ;
to every one who comes to hear with a teachable temper of
mind, with a serious purpose and desire to learn his duty, and
with a resolution to practise what he hears.

My design in this discourse (as it has been in several
others) is, to shew you how you may best profit by the sermons
you hear ; that you may return from the house of God with
benefit, and with a blessing.



56 THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.

SERM. In order to this, I will propose to you several subjects of

'- importance, and shew you how every christian should apply

what he hears to himself.

But in the first place, as ever you hope to profit by what
you read or hear, endeavour to discharge your heart of a too
great fondness for the world and its idols.

It is not /, but our Lord Himself assures you, that let the
seed be never so good, yet if it be sown among thorns, they
Matt.i3. 22. will choke it at last ; that is, as He Himself explains it, " The
cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the
lusts of other things, will choke the word, and it will become
unfruitful."

I. J too (j/r eat fondness, therefore, for the things of this ivorld,
or what we call covetousness, being the greatest hindrance to
piety and christian knowledge, we will first consider this evil,
and the great mischiefs that attend it.
Luke 12. 15. " Take heed,'' saith our Saviour, ''and beware of covetous^
ness." Can we imagine that He would have given christians
this double, this earnest caution, but that He knew that there
is something in this sin very destructive. And you will be
convinced there is, if you will attend to what follows.

First ; That no man can possibly love God, whose heart is
iJohn2.i5. set upon the world, let him pretend what he will. "If any
man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him."
So saith the Spirit of God.

Secondly ; It leads men insensibly into atheism ; that is, to
depend more upon themselves and upon their own industry
and wealth, than upon God, His providence, and blessing.

Thirdly ; It strangely tempts men to believe, that any thing
almost is lawful, which will but increase their substance.

Fourthly ; It most surprisingly changeth the heart, and
dispositions of men. A compassionate man, once possessed
with a spirit of covetousness, becomes hard-hearted ; a liberal
temper becomes stingy; and he that was charitable before
now grudges every penny he parts with.

It is branded in Scripture with the name of idolatry, be-
cause it tempts men to have such an esteem for wealth, as if
their life and haj)piness depended upon having a great deal.
And that which still makes this sin more hateful to God is
this, that it is (what the Spirit of God calls it) the root of



THE TllUE WAY OV PUOFITING BY SERMONS. 57

ALL evil; — the root of everi/ evil, of injustice, of oppression, iTim.6.iO.
of extortion, of cheating one another, of thieving, of contention,
of law-suits, of wishing for the death of parents, &c.

In short, it is a damnable sin ; and whoever lives in it is
in a state of perdition : and it has this sad circumstance
attending it, that few can be persuaded that they are guilty
of it, and therefore cannot be persuaded to repent of it. And
yet, no doubt of it, a sin branded in Scripture with being
the root of all evil must of necessity be known by such as are
guilty of it, if it is not their own fault, that they may be left
without excuse.

Any man, for instance, may conclude for certain that he
is under the power of this evil spirit, when he is more intent
upon the world than in taking care of his soul; when his
love of gain puts him upon suspicious ways and means of
increasing his substance, or denying his neighbour his rights.
Suspicious, I mean, to himself; for even that ought to hinder
a good man from doing any thing which he does hut fear may
displease God, or injure another.

To proceed : that person is possessed with a spirit of cove-
tousness, who has such an opinion and esteem for wealth as
if it could make him happy. Such a man, saith the prophet,
" coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set Hab. 2. 9.
his nest on high, and be delivered from the power of evil ;"
that is, that he may depend upon himself, be out of the
reach of misfortunes, and be independent upon God's provi-
dence.

Thirdly : a man may know whether his care and concern
for the world does not often make him omit the duties he owes
to God and to himself, or perform them with indiiference and
distraction; when the time is often grudged in Avhich they
are performed; when the Lord's day is profaned by unne-
cessary worldly business, and such business made use of as a
pretence for neglecting family duties. When a man shews
no gratitude to God for the favours He has bestowed upon
him, by doing a proportionable good with them ; and when
his concern for himself makes him unconcerned for those
that want his help. When a man's mind is distracted with
imaginary fears of wanting ; or who makes his necessities
greater than indeed they are, and therefore can never be



58 THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS.

SERM. satisfied with his present condition. Lastly; when every

'- disappointment, every loss or misfortune, casts him into

trouble, grief, or despair, not being permitted to consider,
that it is from God, Who orders all things for the best.
These are all instances of that covetoitsness which the Scrip-
ture condemns as leading to perdition. And whoever is, or
is in danger of being, possessed with this spirit (for that
such are possessed with an evil spirit, one need no more
question, than that Judas was possessed with such a spirit
when Satan entered into him) ; whoever is in this sad cir-
cumstance had need to get out of the snare of the devil as
soon as possible.

We should now proceed to consider how this is to be
done ; but it will be necessary to take notice, first, of what is
but too often made use of as a cloak for this sin.

iTim. 5. 8. The Apostle saith, "He that provideth not for his own,
and especially for those of his own house, or kindred, hath
forfeited the faith, and is worse than an infidel.^^

People are apt to think that this will justify them, let
them be never so worldly-minded. When in truth (and they
will find it is so, if they will but look into their Bibles), the
Apostle is not directing christians to provide estates for their
children, but to take care of their poor relations, and not let
others be burdened with them.

We come now to consider, what use a serious christian
should make upon hearing the nature, the deceitfulness, the
danger, and the end, of this sin. Now, a christian who de-
sires to profit by what he hears will think thus with himself:

Eph. 5. 5. 'I have heard what the Spirit of God saith ; that " every
covetous man, who is an idolater, hath no inheritance in the
kingdom of God." And shall not so terrible a truth put a
stop to an over-greedy desire of getting more than I really
want? I see what my duty is. It is to labour in my proper
business ; depending upon God's blessing ; without disquiet-
ing myself with unreasonable fears of wanting. And this I
am to do ; first, in order to supply my own and the necessi-
ties of those that belong to me ; and then, to supply the ne-
cessities of those that are in want. I will not let the hurry
of business, therefore (will every serious christian say), I will
not let worldly business hinder me from serving God, because



THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS. 59

I serve myself most when I serve Him. I will endeavour

always to remember, that I am in the hands of God, Who

has commanded us " to cast all our care upon Him, for He i Pet. 5. 7.

careth for us -" and Who, having given us life even before

we could ask it, will never let us want the necessary means

of preserving it. I will beg of God, that He will grant me

grace to make a good use of what He shall give me, which

will be a sure way of obtaining more favours from Him.

' And since the Spirit of God assures me, that when I do
good to others I do most good to myself, I will therefore en-
deavour to make myself friends against the great day, 6?/ Liike 11.41.
giving alms of such things as I have, as our Lord commands
us. And because I cannot have a better rule than that
which the Apostle has given us (will every serious christian i Cor. 16. 2.
say who lives by gain), I will constantly lay by me in store as
God hath prospered me, that I may have to give to him that
needeth. And that I may do this more cheerfully, I will beg
of God to preserve me from an evil spirit of covetousness ;
and that I may lay up in store a good foundation against the [i Tim. 6.
time to come.

' In order to this, I will often call to mind such scriptures
as these : " that wealth profiteth not in the day of wrath ;" [Prov. ii.
either when we fall into affliction, or when we come to die.
" Thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee : Luke 12.20,
then whose shall those things be which thou hast provided V '
" So (saith our Lord) is he that layeth up treasure for him-
self, and is not rich towards God;" that is, employing his
riches to God's glory, or transmitting them to heaven by the
hands of the poor. " Remember," saith Abraham to the rich Luke 16. 25.
man, " that thou in thy life-time receivedst thy good things ;"
the things in which thou didst place thy very soul and happi-
ness ; " and likewise Lazarus, evil things ; but now he is
comforted and thou art tormented."

Will any christian, after this, call those his good things,
which may be lost when he least thinks of it ; that he cannot
keep without fear, nor part with without vexation; which tempt
us to forget God ; are a snare to us while we live ; and may,
without a mighty grace, be a curse to us when we are dead ?
Rather let us all beg of God to convince us most eflFectually
of the vanity of all the idols of this world, which we are but



60 THE TRUE WAY OF PliOFITING BY SERMONS.

SERM. too apt to doat on, that we may not, like unbelievers, look

'- for happiness here ; and especially, that God would keep us

from every degree of a sin, which is the mother of so many
evils.

What those evils are, we now come to take a short view of;
that as we value our souls, we may abhor and avoid them.

II. The first we shall consider, is that of Oppression ; when
a man bears hard upon his neighbour, because it is in the
power of his hand to do it ; or when it is not in the power of
his neighbour to contend with him. Or, secondly, when a
man's necessities force him to submit to the very hardest
terms his neighbour thinks fit to impose upon him. Oi',
thirdly, when a man will take all the advantage of a hard
bargain which the law will give him, though it be to the
great loss of his neighbour.

These, and such as these, are very great crimes, and will
shut men out of heaven, though no law on earth can take
hold of those that are guilty of them. And indeed nobody
thinks them small crimes, when they themselves come to be
the sufferers.

J'rov. 22. Hear what the Spirit saith of these sins : " He that op-
presseth the poor, to increase his riches, shall surely come to

Zech. 7. 10. want." " Oppress not the poor ;" that is, those that are not
able to contend with you ; " the Lord will plead their cause,
and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them." But, above

[1 Cor. 6. all, hear these terrible words of God : " Oppressors, extor-

10.] X r- ^

tioners , shall not inherit the kingdom of God ;" and then
you know what they must inherit.

III. Injustice is another sin to which a spirit of covetous-
ness leads men. I shall not take notice of those instances of
injustice which the laws of men may and ought to punish,
and do the sufferers right, without making it cost them more
than it is worth.

There are other instances of injustice, as evil in the sight
of God, and as damnable in the end, though people make a
shift to live in them, without public reproach, or check of
conscience : such are, taking advantage of men's mistakes,
ignorance, simplicity, and the like.

I will put you in mind of instances of this kind, that you
may avoid the sin and the punishment.



THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS. Gl

If a man is in drink, he is, in the very language of the
world, over-seen. Now, if in such a condition he happens to
fall into bad hands, and makes a bargain, it is ten to one but
he repents when he is sober, and too often his family smart
for it. Shall I go about to prove, that it is a sin to insist
upon such a bargain ? Every man who has a conscience
knows it to be so ; but perhaps every body does not remem-
ber what God has expressly declared, " that He will be the iThess.4.6.
avenger of all such as go beyond or defraud another in any
matter.^'

How easily may a poor man, who has a righteous cause,
mistake, or be unable to defend it : but will his oversight or
inability give me or you a right to that, to which in truth we
had no just title; or will the judgment of a court lessen the
injustice, when it comes to be tried at the great day?

To feed a man with money when I know he has no
real occasion, only that I may get a bargain of his estate
when he shall be forced to sell it ; this is thought to be no
great crime ; and yet it is plain I help to ruin him, and per-
haps his family ; and if he sins in squandering the inherit-
ance of his forefathers, is it possible for me to be without
guilt ?

Because, in wronging orphans and ividoivs, and poor 23eopIe,
a man has less powerful people to deal with, is he therefore
less wicked ? No, sure ; so far from it, that God has de-
clared Himself concerned in such causes: "Their Redeemer Prov.23.ii
(saith Solomon) is mighty ; He shall plead tlieir cause with
thee.'^

How often do wills and writings of moment, and even
other things of value, fall into the hands of persons to whom
they do not belong. The sin of concealing such things is
looked upon as a less sin than stealing : but for no reason, I
am sure, but because in one case he may be in danger of
being hanged, if he is caught; and in the other, he will only
be called a dishonest man, which such a man will not lay
much to heart. But christians should consider, that the
judgment of a righteous God will not be according to the
foolish opinion of men.

It is too common for people to conceal and keep what they
have found. Such people do not, sure, know, that there is



62 THE TKUE WAY OV PKOFITINU BY SEKMONS,

SERM. an express law of God against such practices; nor do they
Levit 6 — ^^^^ think how they shall answer it at the great day of
accounts.

If a man will take all advantages which the law will give
him, he will very often do great injustice in the sight of God,
and make himself liable to restitution, without which his re-
pentance and salvation Avill be very hazardous. And indeed
a man must love the world exceeding well, even better than
his own soul, who will put his neighbour to trouble, grief, and
expense, to seek for his rights in equity, when he knows be-
forehand that in equity he will or ought to be relieved.

But the sins of fraud and injustice, which are most com-
mon and least taken notice of, are such as are committed in
the way of trade and bargains. The Wise Man has given all
Eccias.27.2. people fair warning of this : " As a nail sticketh fast between
the joinings of the stones, so doth sin stick close between
buying and selling." Every christian therefore, who desires
to keep a good conscience, will be glad to have such rules to
walk by, as he needs not be deceived, unless he be willing to
Matt. 7. 12. be deceived. Such is that of our Saviour's : " Whatsoever
ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them ;
for this is the law and the prophets." Which, though a
general rule, may by a well-meaning christian be applied to
all our dealings one with another; while those that are re-
solved to be rich, whatever shall be the consequence, all the
rules of the Gospel, though never so well explained, will be
of little use to them. But for such as do really make a con-
science of their ways, one would endeavour to make their
way plain and safe.

Now, gain being the great and just end of trade, of which
every man for himself must be judge, and consequently too
apt to be favourable to his own interest, I shall therefore
recommend one very plain rule, which will go a great way
towards directing every conscientious man of business, how
to act safely with regard to gain. And this is, to take such a
gain, advantage, or consideration, as the person ivith vjhom I
deal woidd be satisfied with, if he knew my business as well as
I do myself, and the reasons which oblige me to take such a
profit. Whoever makes this his rule, his conscience will
never reproach him of injustice. But if, instead of doing so.



THE TRUE WAY OF PROFITING BY SERMONS. 63

men will take all that they can get ; make an hand of the
ignorance, necessities, or simplicity, of those with whom they
deal ; they do what they must know to be unjust, and make
themselves hable to one of the most difficult duties of Chris-
tianity, and that is, restitution, without which their repent-
ance will not be accepted of God.

But before we come to consider this duty of restitution, I
would add a few words concerning the noiv common, but
scandalous, crimes oi pilfering and stealing.

I am very sensible, that few of those who have fallen into
these base, bewitching sins, will mind what can be said from
the pulpit or from the Word of God. The Spirit of God
saith indeed, that " a curse or evil spirit entereth into the Zech. 5. 4.
house of the thief, to consume it with the timber and
stones," But what will this signify to those that have
neither /ai/A, nor religion, nor shame, nor fear?

But it will not, one would hope, be in vain to advise those
who are not yet arrived to this height of sinning, to repent
and leave it in time ; for, be assured of it, that when a spirit
of pilfering has once taken possession of a man, it will, if not
resisted, lead him to every degree of that sin, till it brings
him to ruin both of soul and body; and that it will be as
difficult for him, whatever his condition in the world after-
wards may be, to break off an habit of stealing, as it is for a
drunkard, or a whoremaster, or a common swearer, to leave
off those vices that are become a second nature to them.

How exceeding careful, therefore, should parents be to
discourage every the least degree of this sin, every shadow of
it ; to warn their children, over and over again, against so
base, so scandalous a vice, which is so hard to be forsaken,
so hard to be repented of. For restitution must be made,
for all the sins we have been speaking of, as ever men hope
for salvation, at least in the sincere endeavour.

I will no more go about to prove that restitution is a
necessary duty, than I would take pains to persuade you that



Online LibraryThomas WilsonThe works of the right reverend father in God, Thomas Wilson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 49)